The Ban on Flavored E-Cigarettes May Lead to More Smoking by Teenagers As Well As Adults

As the popularity of e-cigarettes has exploded, smoking rates among high school students have reached record lows.


The Department of Health and Human Services says the Trump administration's pending ban on flavored e-cigarettes is necessary because of recent increases in underage vaping. The department cites "preliminary numbers from the National Youth Tobacco Survey" (NYTS) that "show a continued rise in the disturbing rates of youth e-cigarette use." Yet those data also show that smoking by teenagers continues to fall, which undermines the claim that e-cigarettes are a gateway to the real thing and suggests that vaping is actually a substitute for smoking.

According to the NYTS, the prevalence of past-month cigarette smoking among high school students fell from 8.1 percent in 2018 to 5.8 percent this year, even as the prevalence of past-month vaping rose from 20.8 percent to 27.5 percent. Since 2011, the smoking rate has fallen by 63 percent, while the vaping rate has increased more than 18-fold. Based on these data, Boston University public health professor Michael Siegel found a negative correlation of –0.89 between vaping and smoking among high school students.

Those opposing trends suggest not only that more vaping does not result in more smoking but that teenagers who otherwise would be smoking are instead vaping, a much less dangerous habit. In fact, a 2018 study, based on data from the NYTS and other surveys, found that the decline in smoking among teenagers and young adults accelerated as vaping became increasingly common.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows a similar pattern. "Fewer than 1 in 6 people aged 12 or older in 2018 were past month cigarette smokers," the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which oversees that survey, noted last month. "Cigarette use generally declined between 2002 and 2018 across all age groups. Some of this decline may reflect the use of electronic vaporizing devices ('vaping'), such as e-cigarettes, as a substitute for delivering nicotine." (Emphasis added.)

The Monitoring the Future Study likewise shows that smoking rates among teenagers have hit record lows in recent years. The prevalence of past-month cigarette smoking among high school seniors, for example, fell from 18.7 percent in 2011 to 7.6 percent in 2018, a 59 percent drop. While the rising popularity of vaping does not account for the entire decrease, it certainly seems to have helped.

By banning the kinds of e-cigarettes and e-liquids overwhelmingly preferred by adults who used to smoke, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will drive many of them back to a far more hazardous source of nicotine. The same sort of harm-maximizing substitution is apt to occur among teenagers, who may respond to the ban by switching from vaping to smoking. If so, the fear that vaping is a gateway to smoking will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Former FDA Administrator Scott Gottlieb, whose concerns about vaping by teenagers started this ball rolling, acknowledged that some teenagers who vape might otherwise be smoking. "It's probable," he told me last year. "It's implausible for me to say that there aren't kids out there who are using e-cigarettes instead of combustible tobacco and probably, if they never had this opportunity, would have used combustible tobacco." But that reality, Gottlieb said, does not figure in the FDA's decisions. Maybe it should.

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  1. Yeah, but so what?

  2. congratulations you stumbled upon the point of the legislation.

  3. Vaping seems to be increasing much faster than smoking is decreasing. How many teen (and pre-teen) nicotine addicts will it take to make the vaping industry and its cheerleaders content?

    1. Does the chart include THC vapes? I wonder if we added a “past-month marijuana use” line to the graph if it would round out the numbers for the additional vapers

      1. I’ve been waiting for Sullum to write something about that (largely because I’m too lazy to check it out). Do these surveys distinguish between THC vaping and non-THC vaping?

    2. It is a legit question.

      Truth is many dangerous things exist in the world and teens get them. Surely you were one once yourself Rev.

      I do think anything containing nicotine should be age restricted. Unlibertarian of me I know. Fact is since we all were once and some of us have raised them, we know the score.

      Because a man of religion such as yourself would understand. From Deuteronomy it is part of the central prayer in Judaism, the sh’ma.

      “Impress these words on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.“

      Or if you prefer the CSNY version, teach your children well.

      So the job of a parent is never done. The state can ban one thing and they will find another.

      1. The Congregation Of Exalted Reason teaches that people who aim nicotine-delivering products at children are lousy people.

        That pedal steel on CSNY’s magnificent Teach Your Children? Jerry Garcia. And it was originally a Hollies song. Neil Young not only did not participate but claimed Jerry Garcia contributed that part with a regular guitar. I guess ol’ Neil couldn’t remember.

        1. Don’t need him around anyhow.

        2. Hey Rev.

          Don’t know what it has to do with topic.

          But some girl with a piano. We remember the song she wrote.

          Joni Mitchell – Woodstock


    3. Fewer teen nicotine addicts than there are potential alcoholics (something like 60% under 21 drink) , or those hooked on speed from their doctor.

    4. Government power seems to be increasing much faster than parental responsibility is decreasing. How many useless laws will it take to effectively replace parental responsibility and make the Prohibition industry and its statist government cheerleaders content?

    5. “Vaping seems to be increasing much faster than smoking is decreasing.”

      That’s because, in percentage terms, vaping is rising from a small number, and tobacco smoking is fallingg from a high number.

      1. “That’s because, in percentage terms, vaping is rising from a small number, and tobacco smoking is fallingg from a high number.”

        No, that criticism doesn’t apply in this case. Vaping passed smoking in 2014, according to that chart. And there are more teens vaping now than there were teens vaping OR smoking then.

  4. Follow the money.
    How much have cigarette taxes fallen off?

    1. I saw that NY wants everyone to stop vaping. How much was a pack in NY? I heard like 10-12 dollars.
      Is the vegetable glycerin and the propalyne glycol in ejuice safe? I don’t trust the ones that are prepackaged. They taste chemical-like.

      1. So what will all these nannies do once flavored vapes are banned and they continue to see more of these Vaping lung disease cases caused by black market THC-I’m sure they won’t happen in the children they are trying to protect at all, who of course, won’t be vaping THC oil or smoking weed instead because they thought only evil nicotine e-cigarettes could make them sick…

      2. Is the vegetable glycerin and the propalyne glycol in ejuice safe?

        About as safe as the massive amounts of both you almost certainly ingest daily.

  5. “The same sort of harm-maximizing substitution is apt to occur among teenagers, who may respond to the ban by switching from vaping to smoking. If so, the fear that vaping is a gateway to smoking will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

    C’mon Jacob. You are smart enough to realize that is a feature, not a bug. By banning every flavor EXCEPT tobacco flavor, they are getting these accustomed to tobacco flavor so they WILL switch to cigarettes. Too much money is being left on table as more people stop smoking. Vaping can never replace those taxes. Vape juice is too easy to make at home and the ingredients are commercial, so they can’t over tax the ingredients without harming other industries. The exception is acquiring liquid nicotine. That they can over tax, but that too will become available on the black market. This whole issue has zero to do with teen vaping. It’s all about keeping the Benjamins rolling in.

  6. The ban on flavored E-cigarettes is justified since they don’t have butter pecan as a choice.
    Serves them right.

  7. If use of vaping declines next year, and use of cigarettes rises, what will these vape-alarmists have to say for themselves? “I meant well? Think of the children? Nasty numbers?”

    It’ll be extra awkward for them is the opposite trend is observed in the UK, where, so far, the health establishment has resisted the vape alarmists.

  8. Siacri6x
    Full Member
    so i was wondering how you all feel about finding out that you dont like and never have liked candy flavored things or pretty colored things that taste good and that all those bottles on the shelf in your local vape shop are for the kids who are standing outside with their faces against the window and not intended to be appealing to you at all..because you are adults and when you are an adult you do not like these things anymore. And those emails with the pictures of e liquid you get in your private email are for you to make copies of and hand them out at the nearest preschool durring snak time!! oh and you are getting sleeeepy…verrrry sleeeepy..and when you wake up you will be all grown up and only enjoy things that taste burnt and make you sluggish and smelly and dead.. Happy Halloween i suppose…wow i feel strange that i was posessed or hypnotized by babies to do their bidding for the last 8 years..man do i need a cigarette!

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