The CDC Keeps Lying About Adolescent Vaping and Tobacco Use

The agency bizarrely counts tobacco-free, noncombustible e-cigarettes as a kind of tobacco.


Public health officials who see the rise of vaping as a sinister development, rather than an opportunity to dramatically reduce smoking-related disease and death, insist on calling e-cigarettes "tobacco products," even though they do not contain tobacco. The bizarre consequences of that scientifically unsound label can be seen in a recent press release from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that deliberately obscures a decline in teenagers' tobacco use by pretending it did not happen.

Each year the CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey asks high school and middle school students about their use of six tobacco products: cigarettes, bidis (leaf-wrapped cigarettes), cigars, pipe tobacco, shisha (used in hookahs), and smokeless tobacco. According to data published on Friday, teenagers' consumption of all but one tobacco product fell between 2011 and 2015. The only exception was hookahs, use of which rose from 2011 to 2014 before falling last year in both age groups. But hookahs are not nearly as popular as cigarettes were in 2011: The rate of past-month hookah use by high school students last year was about 7 percent, compared to 16 percent for cigarettes in 2011. So the CDC  is contradicting its own data when it announces that there was "no decline in overall youth tobacco use since 2011."


The CDC reaches that puzzling conclusion by treating tobacco-free, noncombustible e-cigarettes as equivalent to the conventional kind. Instead of welcoming the substantial decline in past-month cigarette smoking among teenagers, which fell from 15.8 percent in 2011 to 9.3 percent in 2015, it bemoans the dramatic increase in past-month vaping, which rose from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 16.5 percent in 2015. As far as the CDC is concerned, the rise of vaping completely erases the progress represented by the decline in smoking.

Given the enormous difference between the risks posed by smoking and the risks posed by vaping (which is something like 95 percent less hazardous), that position is scientifically absurd. When vaping replaces smoking, that should count as a public health victory, not a setback. To the extent that teenagers who otherwise would be cigarette smokers are using e-cigarettes instead (a development that is consistent with the fact that smoking and vaping rates are moving in opposite directions), the CDC should be celebrating.

National Youth Tobacco Survey (CDC)

The CDC worries that teenagers who otherwise never would have tried tobacco will start vaping, get hooked on nicotine, and then move on to smoking. There is very little evidence that e-cigarettes are a "gateway" to the real thing, a fear that seems inconsistent with the ongoing declines in smoking among both adults and teenagers. While past-month use of e-cigarettes has shot up among teenagers in recent years, it may consist mainly of experimentation. Data from other surveys indicate that almost all regular vapers are current or former smokers.

The CDC also overlooks the fact that the vast majority of teenagers who try vaping use nicotine-free e-liquids. In the 2014 Monitoring the Future Study, only 22 percent of high school seniors who vaped "reported inhaling nicotine." So when the CDC equates adolescent vaping with tobacco use, it is mainly talking about products that not only do not contain tobacco but do not even contain the same psychoactive ingredient as tobacco.

Even if there were a stronger basis for the CDC's concerns, they would not justify lying to the public about adolescent tobacco use, which contrary to what the agency says is falling, not flat. "Overall tobacco use by middle and high school students has not changed since 2011," says the CDC. That simply is not true, and no amount of rhetorical wriggling can make it so.

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  1. Being a high school student should be the only reason why you decide to smoke cigarettes.

    1. High school students should only take Xanax. Xanax is the solution to their problem.

      1. I was gonna say transgendered bathrooms and Michelle’s lunch suggestions but okay.

      2. Ugh. I hate those people. *lights cig*


  2. Three quarters of America’s greatest literature was written by smokers in an era when two thirds of their readers smoked.

    The communitarian response ? Stop students from smoking.

    If Hillary were for real, she’d be handing out cigars at campus rallies instead of trashing the ash trays at the White House

    1. The cigars could also keep Bill occupied enough that he doesn’t say anything stupid.

      1. He’s got another intern?

        1. Every female on the campaign trail is a prospective intern to him. He’s got to keep up appearances in the run up to the election, after all. And the trips to Pedo Island will have to wait.

  3. How can something look like smoking and not be just as bad as smoking? Huh? Prove it! And don’t cite any evidence that comes from greedy businesses! That doesn’t count because it’s tainted with profit motive! Only CDC approved data can be used! Now prove it! You can’t! Ha ha! I win!

    1. +1 candy cigarette

  4. Say, is there consensus in all this? And do 97% of bureaucrats agree?

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  6. Serious question: Could nicotine-infused, say, energy drinks be a thing? My question is basically: must nicotine be *inhaled* to satisfy users?

    1. Nicotine is a poison. I imagine that it would be easy to overdoes and die if it was ingested.

      1. Nicotine a poison? Nicotine is found in tomatoes, potatoes, cauliflower, peppers, eggplants, and lots of other healthy foods. Everyone tests positive for it. It is a nutrient no more harmful than caffeine. Stop regurgitating propaganda you read somewhere at some point and took on faith because you’re too lazy to research the subject.

    2. Yes

      Its kind of dangerous (as in risk of imminent death) though compared to more conventional methods of use.

      Easier to overdo it.

    3. Serious question: Could nicotine-infused, say, energy drinks be a thing? My question is basically: must nicotine be *inhaled* to satisfy users?


      A sarcasmic points out it is considered a poison, so the ‘effective dose’ is rather close to the toxic/lethal dose, which makes more ‘diffuse’ or fine-grained methods (inhalation, transdermal) of delivery preferential.

      I’ve heard rumor and it seems sensible/reasonable that you could use eyedrops. However, I haven’t tried this and therefore wouldn’t recommend it, it should only be tried by a knowledgeable adult, I am not a doctor, at your own risk, etc., etc…

  7. You guys just don’t get it. Smoking is a moral failure. Any type of smoking not only reveals deep-seated character flaws – It creates them.

    They must save our children’s souls. C’mon people….. they are doing God’s work.

  8. Smoking is not a communicable disease. The CDC should not be involved. Full stop.

    1. It’s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s not the Centers for Communicable Disease Control.

      The agency DOES NOT set policy, they primarily investigate and report on the linkages between environment and health. They can, and do, make recommendations, but nobody is obligated to follow.

      1. Actually, the CDC makes recommendations on vaccines which are subsequently (by and large) mandated by the states. So it is incorrect to state that nobody is obligated to follow their “recommendations”.

  9. So if e-cigarettes are a tobacco product, why does the CDC not include items such as nicotine patches and gums in their survey? They are EVERY BIT the tobacco product that e-cigarettes are.

    1. Because GlaxoSmithKline has paid their dues to the great and powerful CDC. It is an “official” NRT.

    2. Good observation. I used to smoke but for the past fifteen years I’ve chewed two pieces of nicotine gum per day. I don’t think I’m using it quite like they intended. Why they don’t view safer nicotine delivery systems as harm reduction is beyond me.

    3. Because they don’t look like smoking. Duh.

  10. It would help if health insurance companies stopped treated vaping exactly like cigarettes. I know the government is lying to me everyday but I expect better from the insurers.

  11. When vaping replaces smoking, that should count as a public health victory, not a setback.

    I know we are on the same side but there are few things more obnoxious than ceding to the statists the idea that smoking (and other non-contagious behaviors) are matters of public health.

    1. Good point. But you see, by tying us all together through medical insurance, your personal choice affects the rest of us, therefore everything becomes a matter of public health.

    2. Investigating and reporting on links between behavior (or environment) and disease is, actually, a matter of public health. Public health research is the reason that we don’t freely use asbestos, DDT, lead paint, etc., it’s the reason that childhood mortality is well under 2% in the developed world, and it’s the reason that the incidence of lung cancer in the US has fallen by well over 50% over the past 30 years.

      And again, the CDC doesn’t set policy, they inform through research.

      1. So, JMC, how ‘informative’ is this research would you say given it’s flawed premise and lack of substance?

        Or, to put it another way, what ‘end’ do you think the CDC might be trying to influence with their ‘informing through research’ that’s based upon…what research again? Oh, sorry, that’s right. They conducted a poll that already rested upon flawed, incomplete, and/or wholly missing data!

        If you were right, they would have been investigating the actual effects of e-cig’s instead of conducting a ‘survey’ that could have only one outcome.

        You might want to trundle back to Salon if you want to keep pushing that tripe.

        1. They are studying the effects of e-cigs – but as with other exposure-related illnesses it usually takes decades for the exposure to cause a detectable disease. Beside that, the e-cig smoking demographic is young people – those who tend not to go to the doctor very often, and are pretty unlikely to be interested in participating in a multi-decade cohort study. If they’re smoking e-cigs in the first place, they probably aren’t too concerned about the long-term consequences of their use.

          1. And your pro-government controlling us and anti-“smoking” bias shows through when you talk about the survey of teenagers and you refer to them as “smoking e-cigs “in the first place”.
            IT ISN’T SMOKING! There are no products of combustion.
            Not to mention that these “surveys” are a self-policing system, of teenagers, yet, and can hardly be the basis for scientific conclusions.
            Let’s, also not forget that the “studies” you talk about are only turned into policy if the “results” fit their narrative. If they don’t, we just get lied to about it.
            You wouldn’t be from a place called “Stepford”, would you?

            1. Congrats on the semantics win – I agree, it’s technically not ‘smoking’ since nothing is burned in the process of vaping.

              And you’re correct that self-reporting surveys are a poor method for conducting research, relative to pretty much all other methods. Unfortunately they’re sometimes the only cost-effective way to conduct research. Fortunately much of the bias can be overcome by accounting for differences found in reported vs actual from prior studies against the same demographic.

              I’m not in favor of banning anything, people should have the freedom to live the lifestyle that they choose, as long as it doesn’t harm others. On the flip side, I’m absolutely in favor of ensuring that people be given all the information that is available so that they can make INFORMED choices.

  12. No government agency is going to declare a success. It’s like you guys don’t understand how budgeting it done.

  13. Vaping is the only way I quit smoking. Fuck off slavers.

    1. Vaping the tears of orphans is what did it for me. And yeah, fuck off slavers.

  14. “The CDC worries that teenagers who otherwise never would have tried tobacco will start vaping, get hooked on nicotine, and then move on to smoking.”

    There’s probably some validity in the first part of this worry. I’d never try conventional tobacco, but I’ve tried vaping, because it doesn’t have the amount of risk that conventional tobacco does. The flaw in this reasoning starts with the “get hooked on nicotine, and then move on to smoking.”

    Why would anyone go from vaping to smoking?? Smoking is more expensive for the same buzz you’d get for vaping. Why would anyone, hooked on one legal product, willingly choose to upgrade to a more dangerous, more expensive, more uncomfortable to inhale product with no benefits?? If they get hooked on nicotine through vaping, and need a bigger fix, they’d likely simply VAPE MORE, rather than turn to a more expensive product.

    1. Because Hipsters ruin everything?

  15. It seems many here are a little confused by what nicotine is and how dangerous it is.…..ction.html

  16. Agree that the title of the CDC report is misleading by lumping e-cigarettes in with tobacco use. But the author of this blog is either completely uneducated in biochemistry, or simply delusional about the risks involved with vaping. Ingesting a highly concentrated amount of chemicals into your lungs consistently over time is going to lead to mutations during cell replication that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred. It took decades to discover and difinitvely confirm the link between tobacco smoking and COPD, and it’ll probably take decades to ‘prove’ the links between (unregulated, BTW) chemicals in e-cigs and pulmonary disease. It’s common sense, folks, and it’ll seem obvious 20 years from now when the e-cig ‘early adopters’ are dying.

    1. I’m actually curious JMC, do you work for the CDC? I’d like to know your thoughts on Propylene Glycol, specifically, and exactly how dangerous it is to inhale it versus eating it in virtually every food product.

      Please, expound on why you’re the right ‘top man’ to explain a thing that is virtually unstudied by ‘Science!’ with a capital ‘S’.

      1. No I don’t work at the CDC.

        I never said I was the ‘top man’ to explain anything…do you hold the expertise to say with any certainty that e-cigs are harmless? On balance they’re probably safer than tobacco cigarettes – that doesn’t make them ‘safe’ any more than playing russian roulette with one bullet is safe (since you aren’t playing with four or five).

    2. Ohhh, unregulated. Scary.

      So your contention is that in 20 years we will see ex-smokers with lung problems because they quit smoking by vaping. You think they should keep smoking and they will have better lung health? Or, is it your contention they should either quit or die?

      Or could it be that vaping is practically harmless unless you depend on the MSA for funding?

      1. It doesn’t have to be either/or. He might be right, but the fact of the matter is that so far I’ve only seen one highly biased dumbass study that’s really been conducted on e-cigarettes. They aren’t ‘practically harmless’, it’s more like ‘we don’t know how harmful they are’. We suppose they’re less harmless, and with current evidence that seems to be a reasonable assumption compared to cigarette smoking.

        Considering none of the ingredients contained in ‘most’ e-cig juice are very harmful on their own, the burden of proof would be on those who claim that these alternative’s are harmful in a significant way. The fact they want to bypass literally the most important step in the process tells me that they simply aren’t serious about the actual science and want to skip that and move directly to social engineering. After all, that’s how an agency like the CDC keeps their funding.

        For the children!

        1. Yeah, for the children. It is for states like California and New York that borrowed heavily against the Master Settlement Agreement “knowing” they have a steady stream of income from tobacco use. Suddenly people actually quit smoking and the states are panicking. They are hoping the CDC and the FDA can rule carte blanche that e-cigs are tobacco so either they can ban it or roll it into the MSA so they get paid.

          If this had anything to do with health studies would be conducted like that of Public Health England (PHE) who found e-cig are about 95% less harmful than cigarettes. Studies that would be published to help smokers who believe e-cigs are dangerous know they are safer than smoking. I vape and I have since 2010, but according to JMC I only have about 14 years left. People still look me in the eye and say “those things will kill you” while taking a drag off a cigarette.

        2. Nicotine is actually quite harmful on its own, though you would be hard pressed to consume a dangerous amount by vaping.

          Everything else though is pretty much harmless, particularly in the quantities consumed while vaping.

        3. “We don’t know how harmful they are” is precisely the reason that public health agencies are concerned. High concentrations of substances that the body hasn’t evolved to cope with being pumped into the lungs over long periods of time has proven countless times to be have long-term negative consequences on the body.

          You mentioned asthma inhalers in another post – well long-term use may have negative effects on some people – just like vaccinations can have negative effects on some people. But on balance the treatment benefits outweigh the risks, so those risks are accepted by most people.

    3. That’d be true (by definition) if the chemicals were mutagens, but who says they are?

      I’ve a Ph.D. in biochemistry.

    4. Except, of course, that there IS NO definitive link between smoking and COPD.
      Plenty of people have smoked and not developed that affliction and the reverse is also true, people develop COPD without ever having smoked a day in their lives.
      Correlation is not causation, yet agencies like the CDC try to make that connection, all the time, thus making them unreliable.
      Wasn’t it the DCD that came up with the “your brain on drugs” comparison to an egg frying?
      ‘Nuff said!

  17. ‘Ingesting a highly concentrated amount of chemicals into your lungs consistently over time is going to lead to mutations during cell replication that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred.’
    Chemicals? I guess that sounds terrifying to the ignorant. What chemicals are you raving about? Also which of them are ‘(unregulated, BTW)’ and what does that even mean.

    1. The implication is that since is a chemical, and it’s unregulated, that this somehow makes it more dangerous as opposed to it being widely considered to be harmless.

      Oh well, since he’s so informed I’m sure he already knew all this and is just checking us to make sure we’re as smart as he is. He’s so clever! I do wonder though, why isn’t he talking about how dangerous asthma inhalers are since they use the same ingredients? I mean, that seems pretty dastardly. I’d imagine the CDC might want to get on that.

      1. No, I’m saying that the past is filled with products that were initially considered safe, only to be found decades’ later to be harmful. I don’t think e-cigs should be banned, but I absolutely believe that no company should be advertising them as a ‘safe’ alternative to smoking, because nobody knows.

        1. ” because nobody knows.”
          Apparently the CDC wants you to think they do.

        2. Bullshit, we absolutely know that vaping is less harmful than cigarettes. No one is saying it is without risk, but the risks involved are far less than the know harm cigarette smoking causes. According to Public Health England, about 95% less.

          You are using scare tactics to stop smokers from trying e-cigs with the “nobody knows” and “decades to ‘prove’ the links between (unregulated, BTW) chemicals in e-cigs and pulmonary disease” bullshit. I’ve had people literally take a drag off their cigarette and say “that thing will kill you” and I attribute it to people like you who constantly push against a product that is 95% (99% by some estimates) safer than cigarettes.

          E-cigs have the potential to save a billion lives, yet your mealy-mouthed, mamby-pamby bullshit of ‘nobody knows’, and ‘unregulated’ and ‘chemicals’ and all the other scare tactics you push will stop many of them from even trying it. I hope you can’t sleep at night, if you can then you are psychopath who doesn’t care that people are dying and you are standing in the way of preventing it. FYYFF

          1. You’re reading things into my comments that aren’t there. I didn’t say that e-cigs aren’t less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, they probably are. So yes, if you are forced into a decision between smoking and vaping – I’d suggest vaping.

            I’m all for freedom of choice – if you want to shoot up heroin between lines of coke, enjoy…just don’t take advantage of any publically-funded services in dealing with the consequences.

            Good job on the last paragraph – the name-calling definitely enhances your credibility. Ciao.

            1. I’m reading things in your comments that aren’t there? Go review your comments.

              I’m saying the best guess right now is that vaping is 95% safer than smoking. That makes vaping over smoking a no brainer. You keep fear mongering and although you are technically correct, the fear mongering is keeping people from quitting smoking and thus, surely killing them. We don’t know what will happen in 20 years, and you know what? It may be NOTHING. You seem to want people to know it is unregulated so they will stick with the good old regulated cigarettes. You say it may cause lung issues with absolutely no proof beyond you think it might? because, it might.

              You say they are being advertised as a “safe” alternative to smoking which is utter BS. No one I know or ever heard of says they are 100% safe, only that they are SAFER than smoking. No one is saying people for whom tobacco addiction is not a problem should go get a starter kit from the local vape store. But you saying all these fear mongering things that effect people who would benefit from the technology, making them not even want to hear the “95% safer” message. For that you have my righteous contempt and I didn’t even call you names.

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