Two Surveys Find That Almost All Regular Vapers Are Smokers

Fears that e-cigarettes lure nonsmokers into nicotine habits seem to be unfounded.



American officials who are freaking out about the rising popularity of electronic cigarettes, especially among teenagers, generally fail to distinguish between experimentation and regular use. In fact, as Boston University public health professor Michael Siegel points out, surveys sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do not even ask about frequency of use beyond once or more in the previous month. Two recent studies highlight the importance of inquiring further, showing that very few nonsmokers who have tried e-cigarettes are regular users.

One study, which Siegel discussed on his blog last Friday, analyzed data from the Youth Tobacco Policy Survey, which is sponsored by Cancer Research UK. The survey of 1,200 British 11-to-16-year-olds found that 12 percent reported trying e-cigarettes but only 2 percent reported using them more often than once a month, while just 1 percent reported using them more often than once a week. Furthermore, "regular e-cigarette use was found only in children who also smoked tobacco," belying CDC Director Tom Frieden's warnings that such products are luring teenagers who have never used tobacco into nicotine habits that might ultimately lead to smoking. 

One of the researchers, Linda Bauld, a professor of health policy at the University of Stirling, explains the significance of these results, which are scheduled to be published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research:

There's a common perception that the rise we've seen in the use of electronic cigarettes will lead to a new generation of adults who have never smoked but are dependent on nicotine. This fear is based on the expectation that due to the appeal of the products, children who have never used tobacco will be attracted to e-cigarettes and start to use them regularly. 

Our survey is in line with others in the different parts of the UK that show this is not happening. Young people are certainly experimenting with e-cigarettes, some of which do contain nicotine. However, our data show that at the moment this experimentation is not translating into regular use.

Another study, reported in the journal Tobacco Control last week, found that the fears of e-cigarette critics are not materializing among adults either. In a 2014 survey of 9,300 adults in Minnesota, 18 percent had tried e-cigarettes but most had not used them in the previous 30 days. Almost all of the past-month vapers (99 percent) were also smokers. Of the nonsmokers who reported vaping in the previous month, nine out of 10 did so infrequently, defined as vaping on five or fewer days.

The survey also asked about reasons for using e-cigarettes, including "to quit other tobacco products," "to cut down on other tobacco products," "because they might be less harmful than other tobacco products," "to use them in places where other tobacco products are not allowed," "owing to curiosity about e-cigarettes," "because they are available in menthol flavour," and "because they are available in flavours other than menthol." The first four reasons were classified as "goal-oriented." Not surprisingly, there was an association between vaping frequency and motivation:

Defining e-cigarette current use prevalence as any use in the past 30?days failed to differentiate a cluster of infrequent users at the low end of the distribution from other users. In addition to having a distinctly different behavioural profile in terms of use frequency, infrequent users were more likely to report curiosity as a reason for using e-cigarettes and less likely to report goal-oriented reasons, compared to intermediate or daily users. These results suggest that many infrequent users are experimenters, unlikely to continue their e-cigarette use over time. If that is the case, then measuring e-cigarette current use prevalence based on any use in the past 30?days may lead to an overestimate of regular users. That conclusion is reinforced by the finding that most individuals who had ever used e-cigarettes reported no use in the past 30?days.

These results, together with the awkward fact that smoking by teenagers continues to fall as vaping rises, reinforce the impression that public health officials and anti-smoking activists are grasping at straws to justify their knee-jerk animosity toward e-cigarettes. Instead of harping on unfounded fears that vaping will lead to nicotine addiction and an increase in smoking, they should be investigating the lifesaving potential of e-cigarettes, a far less hazardous alternative to the conventional kind. 

[Thanks to Mark Sletten for the Tobacco Control link.]

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  1. Speaking if smokers, it looks like Wal-Mart will no longer sell that dangerous symbol of racism and treason in its stores, thus annoying one of it’s key customer groups.

    1. I read other major chains will do so as well.

    2. Now how am I suppose to decorate my lawn for MLK day?!?
      /here it is Am Soc. proof we’re all racist.

      *throws leaves over man pit*

  2. Anyone who actually cares about ending smoking and saving lives should at least be supportive of e-cigarettes as a step towards ending nicotine use completely. The reaction that we have actually seen — disinformation, hiking up taxes, outright bans — it’s disgusting.

    1. They don’t really have a choice. If they admit that the studies that say E-cigs are dangerous are bogus wish fulfillment, then someone is going to start questioning all the bogus second hand smoke studies. Hell people might start questioning all sorts of bogus studies and where would that leave them.

      1. In case any of you haven’t seen it, this 3 1/2 minute youtube video tells the reasons behind California’s big attack on e- cigarettes. I knew it was about money, but hadn’t realized just how much:

        For a while we were inundated with anti vaping commercials on TV here, sponsored by the California Dept. of Public Health or some such. The video explains why. Short version, for those that don’t have the means to watch the video:

        When the huge tobacco settlement was reached a while back giving billions of dollars to the states, California didn’t want money trickling in from tobacco sales. They wanted it all at once so sold billions of dollars of bonds to be paid back with tobacco sales money.

        Except people started not only getting tobacco elsewhere or quitting, they increasingly took up e-cigs causing an ever increasing drop in tobacco sales. The money to pay off the bonds wasn’t coming in. That left them with two alternatives: get more people smoking, or get everyone to support taxing e-cigs. The perfect motivation for a phony attack on e-cigs.

        1. Yep. Great video on youtube.com does justice to the truth of which Jacob Sullum and you speak.
          Truth About Vaping – Episode 1 “Why They Hate Us”

  3. Ah, but IS smoking continuing to fallamong teens, or is what is falling the percentage of teens trusting enough to tell adults what they do?

  4. When are they finally going to outright ban smoking studies? Don’t we have consensus yet?

  5. It’s the actual motion of sucking on something they despise. It’s the ultimate symbol of the patriarchy, and therefor it must be crushed out of existence.

    1. Does that mean drinking straws are next?

    2. I really don’t get it. Even private business bans vaping. So dumb.

      1. That’s a fairness issue. Making smokers go outside to get their fix while e-cig users sit at their desks isn’t fair.

        1. Since when does anyone care what smokers think?

          1. Good point. I dunno. I vape at my desk and no one complains.

            1. I find that when the vapor has any odor at all, it’s quite pleasant. I enjoy being around people who vape.

  6. It’s amazing. Just amazing. The lesson was given on what bans (prohibition, censorship whatever) leads to: Unintended consequences and black markets. You play right into the hands of organized crime because, you know, something called free moral agency and demand.

    They’re seriously retarded morons such politicians.

    1. Sometimes I wonder if politicians intentionally create black markets because it gives them an excuse to pay armed thugs to do their bidding.

  7. Also, even if it does result in people becoming addicted to nicotine who otherwise would not, if it doesn’t lead them to regular smoking, what’s the problem?

    1. Nicotine is not healthy. Even if the user isn’t smoking tobacco, the nicotine can still cause heart problems and other health issues. At least that’s what my doctor said.

      1. I have heart disease, I’ve never been a smoker, and neither my regular physician nor my sleep therapists had any objection to my taking up nicotine vaping.

        1. Nor my cardiologist. Forgot about him.

      2. I’m sure your doctor also thinks statins prevent heart attacks, salt is bad for you, and dietary cholesterol causes blood cholesterol. Nicotine sans combustion products is no more dangerous than caffeine.

  8. This will be the down fall to the greatest country on the planet. too many leaches think they are entitled to other peoples earnings. ????? http://www.Workweb40.com

  9. “regular e-cigarette use was found only in children who also smoked tobacco”

    Rain only falls on wet streets, never dry ones…therefore wet streets must cause rain.

    1. Fail. What about those first rain drops? And why doesn’t it rain when sprinklers get the street wet?

  10. Thank you Jacob Sullum. As always, you take the reader around the block and knock out the ignorance, with ample options to replace it with the truth. Blessings!

  11. Clearway Minnesota, with whom the author of that MN survey is affiliated, is the bloodsucking spawn of the Minnesota tobacco settlement (whereby the criminals who systematically commit scientific fraud falsely accused the tobacco industry of lying, and they threw the fight and eagerly shoveled out their money to the anti-smokers).

    Here’s what they boast of doing to e-cigs: “The second policy restricts the use and sales of e-cigarettes. It requires child-resistant packaging for e-cigarette liquids, prohibits e-cigarette use in schools, bans their sales from mall kiosks, requires them to be kept behind the counter or in a locked case in stores, allows stronger local restrictions and ensures penalties for selling to minors. It also prohibits e-cigarette use in several indoor settings, including health care and government facilities, state-owned university buildings, and daycares.”


    And the report shows that they’re sitting on $80,990,434 net assets. These included $84,977,918 in “Investments,” from which they derived $8,413,327 in “Net Investment Income.” Wouldn’t you like to know where they got a return of 10%?!

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