Adolescent Smoking Rates Reach Historic Lows, Despite Vaping's Popularity

Past-month cigarette use by high school seniors has fallen by 73 percent since 1997.


Survey data released today show that cigarette consumption by teenagers has reached "historic lows," nothwithstanding warnings that the rising popularity of vaping would make smoking cool again. In an interview with The New York Times, Thomas Glynn, former cancer science director at the American Cancer Society, called the dramatic decline in adolescent smoking since the late 1990s "an astounding accomplishment in public health." But he added that "I think we have to have alarms out" about adolescent vaping, which may yet lead to a surge in smoking. Don't give up fear!

The share of high school seniors reporting past-month cigarette use in the Monitoring the Future Study has fallen from 36.5 percent in 1997 to 9.7 percent this year—a 73 percent drop. The declines among younger students have been even more dramatic: from 30.4 percent in 1996 to 5 percent this year among 10th-graders (an 84 percent drop) and from 21 percent in 1996 to 1.9 percent this year among eighth-graders (a 91 percent drop). These downward trends have continued even as adolescent experimentation with e-cigarettes has become increasingly common.

Monitoring the Future Study

The survey puts past-month vaping this year at 16.6 percent among 12th-graders, 13.1 percent among 10th-graders, and 6.6 percent among eighth-graders. Those rates are up significantly since last year but about the same as in 2015 and lower than they were in 2014, when the survey first asked about vaping. Earlier data from the CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey indicate that past-month e-cigarette use by teenagers tripled between 2011 and 2013.

One reason that teenagers who vape have not gotten hooked on nicotine and graduated to combustible cigarettes is that most of them are not consuming nicotine. In the Monitoring the Future Study, 58 percent of 12th-graders who reported vaping in the previous month said their e-liquid contained "just flavoring." Even those who vape nicotine rarely do it often enough to develop a habit. The Monitoring the Future Study does not report numbers for daily vaping. But in the National Youth Tobacco Survey, less than 1 percent of middle school students and less than 3 percent of high school students report vaping on 20 or more days in the previous month.

Another possible reason why adolescent vaping and smoking rates have been moving in opposite directions, of course, is that teenagers who otherwise would be smoking are vaping instead. Since the hazards of vaping pale beside the hazards of smoking, such substitution also should count as an "accomplishment in public health."

NEXT: How a Drug-Free School Zone Sent a Tennessee College Student to Prison For 17 Years

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    1. Oh my god they also don’t allow cell phone use on the plane. Conclusion: cell phones cause cancer. WAKE UP SHEEPLE

      1. Farting on a plane is also frowned upon. KEEP IN THAT GAS OR WE’LL ALL DIE! or at least wish we had

        1. That’s why you fizzle, my shizzle.
          (I recently learned that original meaning of “fizzle” was a silent fart.)

  2. Glynn proves that people in fields of science can have very un-scientific opinions.

    It’s the same nonsense claim that people used against role playing games and violent video games– that they will encourage harmful behavior. At worst, all these things are REPLACEMENTS for the less desirable behaviors. Why would a teen smoke a nasty cigarette when e-cigs are healthier and more versatile? Leftists are doing us all a disservice by treating these like cigarettes, when they are safer– 100% of the time.

    1. But, but, but vaping looks like smoking! So it’s got to be bad. I mean, you can’t just put stuff into your lungs without doing harm. Just like you can’t burn fossil fuels without burning harm. It must be harmful because it must! I mean, prove it’s not harmful! If you try it will only show that you’re in the pocket of big business! And the only thing standing between harmful business and us is government! Save us! Save us almighty government! Save us from the corporations!

      1. As idiotic as it is, vaping looking at all like smoking is pretty much the central reason why most people appear to have a problem with it.

        If you exhale off a vaporizer and nothing comes out, virtually no one would give a shit. It’s highly illogical, but it does reveal the extent to which people have been conditioned by the government to hate anything that remotely resembles smoking.

        Sort of like the water exhaust from factories being used in documentaries to illustrate ‘pollution’.

        1. Though I rememeber the store I worked at sold very early e cigs. And it wasn’t until they started putting out vapor to look like smoking that they started to get popular.

          Strange things we humans be.

          1. This is also true, and I probably should have mentioned that smokers are also illogical in that they wanted to ‘see’ the smoke they’re used to so they can recognize that they’re getting the drug they prefer.

            I smoked for a decade, and then switched, but I would almost prefer it without all the clouds of shit that indicate that I’m smoking inside.

            I’ve heard I can mix my own to reduce that factor, but honestly I haven’t given enough of a shit about it to do so. Plus, I’m not super comfortable with having a huge bottle of nicotine around since it’s an actual poison.

            1. Plus, I’m not super comfortable with having a huge bottle of nicotine around since it’s an actual poison.

              It’s classification as a poison is also subject to debate. People routinely survive oral doses of nicotine that, had the drug been any one of a number of OTC or prescription drugs, they would have died. Moreover, easy access to larger doses and contraindicated substances make accidental overdoses easy even with OTC and prescription drugs while a multi-gram dose of nicotine would/could require you to drink something like an 8 oz. glass of vaping fluid.

              You probably keep lots of bottles of poison sitting around your house. Nicotine is just one of many that you might “accidentally” consume too much of.

              1. Oh I know, it takes a lot of the stuff to do serious harm (like, a lot of it) but I’m more worried about forgetting the stuff lying out and having one of our animals get into it than I’m worried about the humans in our house. Most of the ‘jugs of poison’ you have in your house are probably somewhere safe that you don’t need to access very often, but I’d need to get into that bottle of nicotine a lot more often and would be inclined to leave it out just because I’m lazy.

                The lazy factor is the big one, honestly, while the rest is mostly rationalization. It’s just easier to go to the local vape shop right around the corner.

                1. I’m worried about the humans in our house.

                  Yeah, I realized after hitting submit that I should’ve said “you” might “accidentally” consume too much of.

                  Considering the number of people I knew who fell asleep while smoking, the relative safety of matches should come into play with regard to the toxicity of nicotine and vaping.

  3. I’m just impressed that you guys aren’t trying to argue that cigarettes aren’t linked to cancer. A giant evil industry you won’t do mindless PR for! Yay!

  4. So the vaping ban is working.

  5. Playing devils advocate, if we were to take the accusations reasonably, wouldn’t we see more people in their 20’s and 30’s smoking, rather than adolescents?

    I don’t buy the “vaping is a gateway to smoking” line, but if it were true, wouldn’t that seem more likely? Wouldn’t that make the “but adolescent smoking is down” argument a non-sequitur?

    1. I’m unsure of the specific association you’re trying to make but the facts are relatively as stated. Vaping is more popular than ever and self-reported smoking among minors is at a low.

      Reason is usually pretty good about the smoking-to-vaping (and vice versa) causality chain usually sticking with objective and safe language like ‘one reason… another possible reason’ instead of ‘the reason’ and pointing out how trends in opposite directions cannot yield positive correlation.

      1. Well, it must be true that vaping causes smoking because the high priests of public health say it does, and they are scientists, and scientists only produce facts and are therefore infallible by definition! /prog media

      2. What I’m saying is that if it were a gateway–and I don’t really think it is–then it would likely take time to see people switch from vaping to actual smoking. So the 15 year old vaping won’t be a teenager in 5 years when we should check back. The best way to get an indication of it being such would be to look 5, 10 and 15 years later, and see if vape users make the switch. Which means we really won’t know much for a while.

        The way to get a good indication would be to look at people who started vaping a decade ago (when they just hit the market, and well before they hit it big) and see if the ones who were never smokers picked up the habit. Checking adolescents and reporting that as proof against the concern these people have is just trying to distract from the question IMO.

  6. Its funny how progs get their panties in a bunch over anything that contains nicotine yet are generally in favor of pot legalization. Give it time though, once pot becomes an established multibillion dollar industry, they will make Nancy Reagan look like Bob Marley.

  7. “Survey data”. Does that mean that this is from ASKING adolescents if they smoke? Because if it does, I would like to know why we would think this mean that adolescent smoking is reaching historic lows, instead of adolescent honesty on intrusive surveys about illegal behavior?

    1. That is a problem isn’t it? If there is anything to learn from recent political events its that people are lying to those doing surveys as a way of pushing back for the “pros” using the market research/keyword/psych eval profiles against them. Be it Brexit, or the election of Trump, the business of trend analysis just got very complicated because… oversold is a market condition that demands correction, and it will occur at some point. Clever without wisdom is perhaps a handicap I observe. Some people have forgotten that, as the price of getting their CV in order was too extreme a cost to allow the ego to be set aside and stop chasing shadows.

  8. Vaping is mostly water vapor, so… why are these consumers being treated like regular smokers? There is no fire hazard [as traditional cigarettes have burning chemicals in them that will keep them lit once fired up]. Are we so scared of the shadow of second hand smoke, that we are virtually banning an activity where the hazard is no more than driving in rush hour traffic? People forget this, but a study of nearly 75,000 women concluded at the end of 2014 pretty much matched a prior study by the WHO [wrapped up during Clinton’s presidency if I remember]: cancer risks to non users/secondary smoke inhalers were right near margin of error, and therefore any causal statement could not be made. And thats with REAL smoke. So, today’s vaping crowd is being unfairly punished for looks – much the same as old Chicago PD used to beat up people for looking like hippies for no apparent reason. A problem appears to be largely solved – let’s cut people a break for doing their part.

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