Vaping Rises to Record Highs, Smoking Falls to Record Lows, and Activists Insist 'E-Cigarettes Are a Gateway to Smoking'


Monitoring the Future Study

This year the Monitoring the Future Study, which I mentioned yesterday in connection with marijuana use by teenagers, asked about electronic cigarettes for the first time. It found that "more teens use e-cigarettes than traditional, tobacco cigarettes or any other tobacco product." Whether you see that news as cause for alarm depends on whether you view e-cigarettes as a potentially lifesaving alternative to conventional cigarettes or as a menace to the youth of America. That, in turn, depends on how calmly you consider the evidence.

In the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, 17.1 percent of 12th-graders, 16.2 percent of 10th-graders, and 8.7 percent of eighth-graders reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month. By comparison, the CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) last year put the prevalence of past-month e-cigarette use among all high school students at 4.5 percent. Although the two surveys are not directly comparable, the gap suggests that past-month e-cigarette use by teenagers, which according to the NYTS tripled between 2011 and 2013, continues to rise. But at the same time, both surveys show that smoking among teenagers continues to fall. In fact, the rates of past-month cigarette smoking among eighth-graders, 10th-graders, and 12th-graders in the MTF survey—4 percent, 7.2 percent, and 13.6 percent, respectively—are lower than ever before in the history of the study, which began in 1975. Furthermore, as Bill Godshall of Smokefree Pennsylvania points out, the drops in past-month cigarette smoking between 2013 and 2014—11 percent, 21 percent, and 17 percent, respectively—are the largest such decreases ever seen.

Given these data, it hardly seems reasonable to conclude that more vaping means more smoking. Yet that is what anti-smoking activist Stanton Glantz claims. "There's no question that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking," he recently told USA Today. The story cites recent studies of e-cigarette use by teenagers in Hawaii and Connecticut, neither of which proves Glantz's claim.

The Hawaii survey, conducted last year, found that 18 percent of high school students had used e-cigarettes in the previous month, which is four times the nationwide rate indicated by the 2013 NYTS. At the same time, however, the past-month smoking rate in Hawaii was just 7 percent, compared to a national average of 12.7 percent in 2013, per the NYTS. So in Hawaii, an unusually high rate of e-cigarette use by teenagers coincides with an unusually low smoking rate, and this supposedly shows that "e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking."

The Connecticut study, which included a survey of students at four high schools, two middle schools, and a college, found that 21 percent of them had ever tried e-cigarettes. The study does not say how many had used e-cigarettes in the previous year or month. But as in Hawaii, the past-month smoking rate was quite low: 7 percent, about half the national average for high school students. Again, this does not look like evidence that the rising popularity of e-cigarettes is attracting teenagers to the conventional kind.

If anything, the fact that vaping and smoking rates among teenagers are moving in opposite directions is consistent with the idea that e-cigarettes are replacing combustible cigarettes among people who otherwise would be smoking. Godshall cites additional evidence from the MTF survey in support of that hypothesis:

Among [the] 33.8% of 12th graders who reported ever smoking a cigarette, MTF found that during the "past 30 days" 16% reported no use of cigarettes or e-cigs, 4.6% reported exclusive e-cig use, 7.3% reported dual use of cigarettes and e-cigs, and just 5.9% reported exclusive cigarette smoking.

Among [the] 21.9% of 10th graders who reported ever smoking a cigarette, MTF found that during the "past 30 days" 10.0% reported no use of cigarettes or e-cigs, 4.9% reported exclusive e-cig use, 4.3% reported dual use of cigarettes and e-cigs, and just 2.7% reported exclusive cigarette smoking.

Among [the] 13.3% of 8th graders who reported ever smoking a cigarette, MTF found that during the "past 30 days," 6.6% reported no use of cigarettes or e-cigs, 2.2% reported exclusive e-cig use, 2.2% reported dual use of cigarettes and e-cigs, and just 2.3% reported exclusive cigarette smoking.

These patterns suggest that e-cigarettes may be helping some adolescent cigarette smokers cut back or quit. Even when teenagers try e-cigarettes first, some of them might otherwise have smoked the conventional kind. The upshot in both cases would be the same: less smoking and less tobacco-related disease, something anti-smoking activists like Glantz supposedly want.

New York Times science reporter Sabrina Tavernise treats the claims of Glantz and other opponents of vaping with appropriate skepticism (emphasis added):

Health advocates say the trend [in] e-cigarette use is dangerous because it is making smoking seem normal again. They also worry it could lead to an increase in tobacco smoking, though the new data do not show that….

E-cigarettes have split the public health world, with some experts arguing that they are the best hope in generations for the 18 percent of Americans who still smoke to quit. Others say that people are using them not to quit but to keep smoking, and that they could become a gateway for young people to take up real cigarettes.

But that does not seem to be happening, at least so far. Daily cigarette use among teenagers continued to decline in 2014, the survey found, dropping across all grades by nearly half over the past five years. Among high school seniors, for example, 6.7 percent reported smoking cigarettes daily in 2014, compared with 11 percent five years ago.

Tavernise also notes that "most experts agree that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than traditional cigarettes." That is why the crucial question, in assessing the "public health" impact of e-cigarettes, is whether they compete with tobacco cigarettes or somehow expand the market for them. The evidence so far clearly supports the former view.

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  1. But if people replace something we’ve been trying to ban with something we’ve barely started to ban yet, then it’s a huge setback!

    We were just one ban away from Utopia, now we’re at least 3!

    You almost make it seem like they don’t care about the results, and just about control…

  2. “Activists realize if people actually stop smoking they’ll be out of a job. ‘Ignore the numbers, things are worse than ever!'”

    1. Worse, if people stop smoking that means no more revenue for their do-gooder organizations like truth.com.

      What will happen to the people who create smug ads about the evils of smoking?

      1. “You don’t know what it’s like in the private sector – they expect results!”

        1. +1 crossing stream

  3. I’m sure they will get right on a total vaping ban as soon as they finish up stopping the scourge of powdered alcohol


    “I think being proactive and jumping out in front of the problem is probably the right thing to do,” said Chris Johnson, executive director of the County Sheriffs of Colorado. “It really doesn’t have any place in our society, powered alcohol. We have enough problems with the liquid kind.”

    Johnson said he fears powdered alcohol will make it easier for children to “sprinkle it on top of their Wheaties for breakfast” and increase the potential for alcohol poisoning.

    “It can be a very dangerous thing,” he said.

    Surely we can agree that booze dusted wheaties are a bigger problem than vaping?

    1. Children having alcohol?! Are they trying to turn us into France or something?

    2. Isn’t it amazing that just 53 years ago there was a Doris Day-Rock Hudson movie, Lover Come Back, in which a product was marketed as a candy that had the effect of a triple martini? A new way to get people high was considered a plausible product for a big business to sell. Something awful happened in the meantime, I don’t know what, maybe it was the hippies.

  4. OT- just discovered SHAMEproject.com… I hate people.

    1. Oh, the two virulently anti-libertarian dudes who created eXile, which was only good for reading War Nerd. Isn’t it interesting that two jackasses (and an ethics advisor!) are a project?

    2. Oh, look! They have a place where you can submit “tips”. There should be a campaign where that tipbox is filled with the information that Mark Ames, self-admittedly, slept with an underaged Russian girl and when he got her pregnant, subjected her to intensive physical and psychological torture that included threats to murder her and her unborn child until she agreed to abort it.

      1. No wonder he writes shame as an acronym, as he obviously doesn’t have any.

        1. I’m sure Irish and others will help me out with the exact quotes. Based on the things he has brazenly admitted to doing, Ames, in a sane and just world, should be in prison serving 30 to life.

  5. They’re animists. They don’t do what they do because of logic or sense. They have decided that cigarettes are evil. But, being animists and therefore incredibly stupid, they think anything that looks or behaves like a cigarette is evil. It’s that simple. And so they will go after vapers with the same intensity, because in their pathetically limited minds, cigs and e-cigs are one and the same.

    1. Ban pretzel sticks!

      1. Well, look at candy cigarettes and tell me it isn’t true. They go APESHIT over candy cigs.

        1. I’m in total agreement with you. And I like the animist angle that you have developed in regard to progressives. It’s the same with guns, cigarettes, and practically everything else these nitwits fret over.

          1. Yup. The object itself becomes something with evil agency rather than just a tool or a nicotine delivery system or whatever. It’s amazingly primitive.

        2. When I was in middle school, a friend had acquired a box of candy cigarettes, and we proceeded to “smoke” them. (It was cold enough to see your breath, so we thought it was cool)

          We had an obviously blitzed out of his mind neighbor come up to us and say “now boysshh, I.. I know what you’re doing out ‘ere. I’m not going to tell your parenthh, but you need to stahp smokin’ at your age”

          I couldn’t tell whether he was going apeshit over the candy cigs, or whether he was too drunk to realize that they weren’t real… either way, we made sure to consume our pressed sugar sticks out of sight of any other meddling adults.

          Children are much more observant than adults give them credit for. Moralistic panic and animism gets their attention very quickly. It certainly did for 12 year old me, enough that I remember that “concerned” look in his eye, the same “concerned” look I see in the eye of anybody making their pleas for the children.

  6. ‘Public health’ advocates should be elated by this news, but they’re not, and that demonstrates better than anything that it was really about control over other people’s habits than it ever was about public health.

  7. I mildly suppport e-cigs and strongly oppose e-cig opponents. The e-cig benefit for a smoker is pretty clear. I think the biggest question is what are the e-cig smoking people gonna turn to in 5-10 years when it’s not *cool* anymore. If they drop it, great. If they start smoking for real, that’s not quite so good. Right now, there’s no serious evidence that it will or won’t happen, because they haven’t been popular for long enough. So, you can’t simply dismiss the concern about the future of people who are smoking e-cigs right now.

    Naturally, good or bad results… I don’t care. You should have freedom to smoke/vape whatever you damn well please.

    1. So, you can’t simply dismiss the concern about the future of people who are smoking e-cigs right now.

      Sure I can. You can too. In fact you did in your final sentence:

      You should have freedom to smoke/vape whatever you damn well please.

      1. I was referring to the last 4-5 paragraphs of the article. JS is emphasizing quotes about “the data do not show that” and “that does not seem to be happening” in reference to the idea that e-cig use may lead to real smoking and health problems. I don’t think you can simply point to those quotes and dismiss (as untrue) the suggestion that e-cigs may lead to real smoking and those health consequences. There is still plenty of potential that will occur.

        But, as you say, I do agree that you can dismiss the relevance. I don’t care if smoking gives people cancer, ebola, or lupus. If they want to smoke, that’s their choice.

        1. Of course the onus isn’t on those that are counter-claiming with the “there is no evidence” argument, but on those who are making the affirmative claim that vaping absolutely leads to smoking.

          And until they can affirmatively show their affirmative claims to be true, they should shut the fuck up.

      2. That’s not so much dismissing the concern as prioritizing it below liberty.

        There’s nothing wrong with being concerned about the long term effects of vaping, as long at that concern keeps its place.

  8. Every time I see the new CVS ads about how they dropped tobacco products, I wonder if they cell e-cigs. If they don’t, they aren’t serious about helping people quit smoking.

    Also, fuck those damn truth commercials. I hate them so much.

    1. I see those terrible truth commercials, and I think “Just a little more fervor, a little less restraint, they’d go to Tobaccoville, NC, and burn the whole town down.”

    2. They sell what is known in the vaping community as “cigalikes” which are viewed as not much more effective as standard cessation devices. The current data shows that it isn’t until people start using more advanced devices (at least 2nd generation – aka “open system”) that vaping shows much better results than the patch, Rx, gums, lozenges, etc.

      In other words, it isn’t until people start tailoring and exerting control over their vape that it becomes truly effective.

      And it’s the ability to tailor and control your vape that the government and so-called public health advocates are going to go after because they don’t want an effective alternative. Too much money is at stake.

  9. Oh, and e-cigs aren’t necessarily only good for quitting smoking. My friend is trying to cut back on his drinking, so he took up e-cigs. He realizes he has a somewhat addictive personality, and he is trying to replace alcohol with something less dangerous. Good for him. And fuck anti-smoking activists.

    1. He should try some weed.

      1. He is former military and I think the company he works for now does almost all government contract work. So probably not a good idea…

        1. That’s too bad, because it works. Fucking idiotic drug laws.

    2. I took up vaping trying to cut back eating. No noticeable effect there, whether I vaped nicotine or nic-less, but it seems it might have helped a little with my post-herpetic neuropathy.

    3. They’re also being used by (mostly) women who have the tendency to snack on sweets to lose weight and diabetics to keep their blood sugar under control when they get a sweet craving.

      But what people are using vaping for is fucking irrelevant. “Does it harm others?” should be the only operating question. SInce the answer is “no” this should be a non-conversation.

  10. My body my choice!

  11. I’ve fought this battle twice in my hospitals.

    Once, I was able to get vaping excluded from the “no-smoking” policy, on the grounds that it was a harm reduction/therapy for quitting actual smoking.

    The other time, because we piss tested for nicotine, no joy.

  12. One thing to keep in mind

    A lot of these teens may be vaping, but without nicotine

  13. Vaping is like hemp – it’s an ingenious cover for the real thing!!!!


  14. Dammit, it’s safer than sniffing aromatherapy candles!

  15. Stanton Glantz, the “Al Sharpton” of the anti-smoking movement – I can’t believe this turd has any credibility left.

    1. He’s as bad or worse than Ellen Hahn who’s made a career off of lies and half-truths concerning smoking, and now concerning vaping.

  16. The argument goes that smoking is dangerous to one’s health and likely to result in an early death from cancer, but the answer to that is smoking is their personal choice to make, and legislating health goes beyond the scope of individual liberty. Smoking is legal, smoking in some enclosed spaces is not ~ what do we care if people smoke, so long as they do it where they’re allowed to smoke?

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