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E-Cigarettes Are Not Tobacco Products

The CDC misleads the public about the hazards of vaping.

For years anti-smoking activists and public health officials have tried to justify their irrational hatred of electronic cigarettes by arguing that vaping leads to smoking, especially among impressionable young people who otherwise would never touch tobacco. But that is not happening. To the contrary, vaping and smoking rates among teenagers are moving in opposite directions. Rather than admit they were wrong to claim that e-cigarettes are a "gateway" to the conventional kind, opponents of vaping have escalated their prevarications by implying, in defiance of all scientific evidence, that there is no important difference between the two kinds of nicotine delivery devices.

According to the latest numbers from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the week before last, 13.4 percent of high school students reported past-month use of e-cigarettes in 2014, up from 4.5 percent in 2013. During the same period, the rate of past-month e-cigarette use among middle school students rose from 1.1 percent to 3.9 percent. "E-Cigarette Use Triples Among Middle and High School Students in Just One Year," said the headline over the CDC's press release, which spawned myriad news reports highlighting that point.

Less noticed was a fact relegated to the fourth paragraph: "Cigarette use declined among high school students and remained unchanged for middle school students." Among high school students, 9.2 percent reported past-month cigarette use in 2014, down from 12.7 percent in 2013. Among middle school students, 2.5 percent reported past-month cigarette use, down from 2.9 percent in 2013. The latter drop was not statistically significant, which is why the CDC says the rate "remained unchanged."

The divergence between vaping and smoking is even more dramatic when you look at the period from 2011 through 2014, when the rate of past-month e-cigarette use rose from 1.5 percent to 13.4 percent among high school students and from 0.6 percent to 3.9 percent among middle school students. Meanwhile, past-month cigarette smoking fell from 15.8 percent to 9.2 percent in the older group and from 4.3 percent to 2.5 percent in the younger group. Needless to say, this is not what you would expect to see if vaping encouraged smoking.

If anything, these data suggest that e-cigarettes are replacing the real thing. As one tobacco researcher told The New York Times, "They're not a gateway in, and they might be accelerating the gateway out." That cannot be anything but good news from a public health perspective, given the huge difference in risk between vaping and smoking.

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The CDC refuses to see it that way. "This is a really bad thing," CDC Director Tom Frieden told the Times. "This is another generation being hooked by the tobacco industry. It makes me angry."

Wait a minute. "The tobacco industry" is hooking kids on e-cigarettes? Although tobacco companies have begun to enter the e-cigarette business in recent years, the two industries are hardly synonymous. Leaving aside the question of ownership, e-cigarettes do not burn and contain no tobacco, which is why they are so much safer than traditional cigarettes. It is more than a little misleading to classify them as tobacco products.

Yet that is what the CDC does. When it claims "there was no decline in overall tobacco use between 2011 and 2014," it is counting e-cigarettes as tobacco products. That makes as much sense as counting nicotine gum or patches (which also contain nicotine derived from tobacco) as tobacco products. This is no mere word game, because it is not true that "there was no decline in overall tobacco use between 2011 and 2014." The CDC is lying to us.

Similarly, the American Lung Association suggests that the decline in smoking is "offset by the dramatic increase in use of e-cigarettes," which is scientifically absurd given the clear health advantages of vaping. This is not simply a matter of emphasis or opinion. In terms of health effects, it cannot possibly be true that the increase in e-cigarette use offsets the decline in smoking.

recent article in New Scientist illustrates the extent to which critics of e-cigarettes are misleading the public:

[Brian] King [an epidemiologist with the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health] says the CDC rejects any notion that replacing cigarettes with e-cigarettes is positive, and claims that e-cigarettes are actually prompting youngsters to take up smoking, not just taking the place of cigarettes. "In just one year, the number of kids using hookah doubled, and the number of kids using e-cigarettes appears to have tripled," he says. "These increases are driving an uptick in the total number of our children who are using tobacco products for the first time in a generation."

Again, this is true only if you insist on calling e-cigarettes tobacco products, which they aren't. Michael Siegel, a Boston University public health professor who used to work at the CDC, wonders, "How can the CDC possibly claim that a youth smoker switching completely to e-cigarette use is not a good thing?"

Contrary to the impression left by the CDC, regular vaping, as opposed to experimentation, seems to be much more common among smokers trying to quit or cut back than it is among people who have never tried tobacco. That is true of teenagers as well as adults.

study published last week in BMJ Open, based on surveys of students in Wales, found that only 1.5 percent of 11-to-16-year-olds reported using e-cigarettes at least once a month, and almost all of those monthly vapers were also smokers. "Many young people (including never-smokers) have tried e-cigarettes," the researchers write. "However, regular use is less common, and is associated with tobacco cigarette use." They conclude that "e-cigarettes are unlikely to make a major direct contribution to adolescent nicotine addiction."

Michael Siegel notes similar findings in other surveys of British teenagers. "Among nonsmoking youth," he writes, "all use of e-cigarettes was mere experimentation. There was zero (0) regular use of e-cigarettes (defined as using e-cigarettes more than once per week)….The only regular use of e-cigarettes was observed among current and former smokers."

As Siegel points out, the CDC's National Youth Tobacco Survey does not ask teenagers how often they use e-cigarettes, just whether they have used them in the previous month or the previous year. Hence the survey cannot tell us how many recent users are regular users rather than experimenters. Siegel argues that the CDC "is misleading the public not only through its outright lies, dishonesty, and deception about e-cigarettes, but also by its failure to ask the right questions to actually test its pre-determined conclusions."

This article originally appeared at Forbes.com.

Thumbnail image credit: www.vaping360.com

Photo Credit: www.vaping360.com / Source / CC BY

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    For central planners, their feelings are science enough.

  • Marshall Gill||

    And this describes just about everything that comes out of the CDC. They really should rename themselves "The State Science Institute".

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    The problem is that while the core mission of the CDC is a decent idea, it isn't one that can survive in a representational government. Most years the CDC budget is going to be "waste", because (thank the Gods) there will be little to nothing for them to do. So assorted Congresscritters will want to cut their budget (and appropriate it for their own hobbyhorses). And then when something DOES happen that the CDC would be perfect for, they won't have the budget to deal with it, and so they will get zeroed out the following year for their "failure".

    So the CDC people, naturally, look for things to do that will make them look busy. But then they get captured by those missions, and neglect their core mission.

  • Nate Pickering||

    We should take care not to lump the entire CDC in with the lunatics who run the asylum of their tobacco division (which, admittedly, can be difficult when the agency's head is a professional anti-tobacco lying machine like Tom Frieden). Their infectious disease division, despite having committed some notable missteps recently, does some good work and there are some good, honest researchers who have been there for many years.

    But the tobacco division is so unconcerned with honesty and good science that it might as well be called the Ministry of Tobacco Propaganda, and its antics are so reprehensible that the entire agency winds up getting damned by association.

  • bacon-magic||

    I went from 2 packs a day 3 years ago to something that I enjoy & has already been noticeably better for my lungs. Fuck all the haters.

  • uomerana||

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  • sarcasmic||

    Consensus.

  • Slammer||

    "This is another generation being hooked by the tobacco industry. It makes me angry."

    MUH FEELZ!!!

  • Mainer2||

    Frieden SMASH !

  • Brian D||

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    "Go peddle your revivalist anti-tobacco crap elsewhere, you Proggie buttinski" would be MY reaction. These dolts are as bad as the Temperance idjits.

  • skoony||

    another generation? i think not. this is what is making them worry. http://www.ecigarette-politics.....-myth.html

  • Nick H||

    When you change what the words mean, you are always right

  • ace_m82||

    True.

    (Maybe, it depends on the definition of "true".)

  • Adans smith||

    A n Arturo Fuente Hemingway and a Samuel Smith Oatmeal stout is heaven '.A women's just a women,but,a cigar,that's a smoke'.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    None of this matters. The anti-tobacco Crusade went full-bore nuts some time in the 1980's, and is so far beyond the bend they can't see it from where they are, even if they wanted to look, which they don't. The statistics they come up with are less and less honest, the regulatory net they spread is more and more fascistic, and their public position becomes increasingly deranged. We are in a race to see which happens first; a broad cure for cancer or a complete (and disastrous) prohibition of tobacco. If the former beats the latter I think we will see a widespread public meltdown, as these pillocks denounce the cure as a "tool of Big Tobacco".

    I'm not saying that smoking is not a vice, and unhealthy. But lots of things people choose to do are unhealthy. Being a sexually active Gay man is unhealthy, to a statistically much greater degree than smoking. Yet anybody who had the audacity to suggest that those statistics gave the Government a mandate to ban Gay sex would rightly be denounced.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Ctnd.

    The evidence that "secondhand smoke" is dangerous has been so broadly (and publicly) faked that I don't think any further pronouncements on the subject can be believed, not matter how scrupulous the documentation seems to be. The Crusade is going to snowball in idiocy until it completely self destructs. And in doing so, it will rehabilitate the public image of smokers, and we will see the percentage of the population that smokes rise again.

    I no longer believe that statistics regularly released that claim that smoking is less popular. I think that, given the hysteria surrounding the issue, what is less popular is telling nosey goons the truth about one's smoking.

  • ||

    The evidence that "secondhand smoke" is dangerous has been so broadly (and publicly) faked that I don't think any further pronouncements on the subject can be believed, not matter how scrupulous the documentation seems to be.

    Christopher Snowdon's Velvet Glove, Iron Fist: A History of Anti-Smoking documents well how utterly fake the 'studies' about secondhand smoke's dangers were.

  • FXR||

    Second hand smoke has always been a convenient lie. Not just for the Criminals who call themselves the Public Health "movement" [think bowels]. But for non smokers who accept the lie for convenience and comfort. The initial studies relied on data of the most exposed for an entire working lifetime. At levels few if any in the real world population would ever see. At a risk level that would require a much larger population, to do anyone any harm. The scant numbers came nowhere close to acceptable risk levels, we see for drug products, food and the air we breathe. From protecting the workers, to protecting the public, to smoking bans outdoors, to protecting all who could see someone smoking. There is no science or data to support what everyone knows to be a lie "no safe level" is a phobic protection. The truth can be demonstrated in front of anyone willing to witness it. Light a cigarette in a crowded room filled with those phobics and finger wags who rail for smoking bans, as an imaginary right. You will see anger and perhaps violence. Yet, with no safe levels acceptable, of the most potent poison ever seen. No one will be running for the door. Living the lie, would make them not only feel foolish, but would probably inspire laughter.

    The Emperor has no clothes, and we fired all the tailors.

  • Nate Pickering||

    I think the "public health" and "tobacco control" leadership are increasingly aware that e-cigs are going to wind up being their Alamo. They are a cornered, wounded animal and they plan on going out with all guns blazing; it becomes more clear with each passing month, as their rhetoric grows increasingly desperate and their lies become all the more cartoonishly absurd.

    But hey, if I'd spent my entire professional life doing ridiculous junk science, inventing statistics out of whole cloth, and never having any of my lies challenged, the prospect of having to go out and get a real job would probably be quite terrifying.

  • ||

    Being a sexually active Gay man is unhealthy, to a statistically much greater degree than smoking. Yet anybody who had the audacity to suggest that those statistics gave the Government a mandate to ban Gay sex would rightly be denounced.

    You don't even need to propose a ban:

    C.S.P. Schofield agrees with Ben Carson; Smoking causes gay sex.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    That wasn't even clever.

  • 2tiredofit||

    The CDC should ONLY be dispersing facts - not their opinions. I guess they think we are too ignorant to arrive at our own opinions based on the facts. The propaganda should be left up to the special interest groups (not that I agree with being lied to by anyone).

  • UncleWaldo||

    You're new to this country aren't you?
    ;)

  • ||

  • Michaelmas||

    Remember, this is the same CDC which made it AGAINST THE LAW for a tobacco company to tell consumers " look, we've made these cigarettes than have only a fraction of the Tar and Nicotine of your old brand, if you HAVE to smoke, at least smoke the low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes, it's better for you". NO, against the law, you cannot say low-tar and low-nicotine is better than high-tar and high-nicotine, even though anyone but a Moron can see it's obvious. Hey guys, does the phrase "the dose makes the poison" mean anything at all to you? Same reason beer companies cannot, BY LAW, list the alcohol content of their beer, because people might choose the higher percentage. They also might choose the lower, but we can't have choice. We're the government, and we're here to help you.

  • BiPolarMoment||

    The beer labeling thing is not a national law. http://draftmag.com/the-label-game/

    To that end I _do_ often choose the higher percentage (or choose against a low percentage as it may be), either by reading the label or looking it up.

  • ClassicLib-NeverProg||

    Where I live every beer bottle/can lists the alcohol percentage...

  • Nate Pickering||

    No, that was the FDA. The CDC has no regulatory power; it is only a scientific (well, "scientific") advisory body.

  • Robert||

    Principals, not principles. Vape & snus don't come from Big Pharma like the gum & patch.

  • ClassicLib-NeverProg||

    The snus thing is infuriating, especially considering it has single-handedly reduced smoking massively in Sweden (and Norway to a lesser extent) and there is no proof it causes any real harm. Yet our government places huge fucking warnings on the package saying it causes cancer, etc. when there is no proof whatsoever this is true. Got to love the "feelings over facts" crowd.

  • Nate Pickering||

    At least snus isn't banned over here like it is in the EU (except Sweden, of course). Because what makes more sense for "public health" than outlawing the one form of tobacco that isn't positively associated with any disease whatsoever?

  • HolgerDanske||

    I don't understand how anti-tobacco folks don't see e-cigarettes as a step in right direction for their cause? That is, if their cause is really to get people to stop smoking for their health.

  • Brewlady||

    All the miserable, small-minded "Tobacco Control" nannies need something to control. Electronic cigarettes have the potential to not only make tobacco cigarettes obsolete, they would also make tobacco control obsolete.

    Their cause has never been about helping other people.

  • ||

    Unfortunately, their cause is to just have a cause-that is their addiction!

  • Nate Pickering||

    The "tobacco control" people have been regularly moving the goalposts for as long as they've been in business. I'm old enough to remember when the anti-smoking movement was actually about smoking. But then it started becoming a profitable industry, and when the smoking rate actually started going down precipitously, the anti-smoking movement morphed into the anti-tobacco movement. After a couple more decades, vapor products arrived on the scene, and the anti-tobacco movement quickly reinvented itself as the anti-nicotine (and anything that even looks like smoking) movement.

    Fortunately though, the goalposts have now been moved as far as they can, and the general public is finally starting to see these lunatic moral crusading social engineers for what they really are.

  • RagingSparrow||

    The antismoking zealots are adamantly opposed to the basic concept of "harm reduction." Swedish snus is far less harmful than smoking, or even traditional American snuff. E-cigs are less harmful than any of the above products, yet all are condemned as equally as bad as cigarettes.

    Then again, as a former nicotine addict, it does concern me that youngsters are getting addicted to nicotine at younger ages. While e-cigs are safer than cigs, a lifelong addiction is very expensive in either case.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Concern over the fate of addicts has been the excuse for decades of expensive failure called The War On Drugs. I'm unpersuaded that the addicts are better off, and I know our civil rights have been eroded. All because we didn't tell a bunch of preaching busybodies to go climb a tree.

    The anti-tobacco fanatics want to add tobacco to the list of banned substances; a vice so popular that the Ottoman Turks failed to eradicate it when the penalty for being caught was to have your nose cut off. Idiots.

  • FXR||

    The current agenda in Ottawa later this year, includes a discussion of changing the PH levels of tobacco, to make smoking more caustic. The nose thing? Please don't give them any more ideas. harming people to save them from harming themselves is the focal point of all such "movement" mentalities. I find it laughable to see anti-Trump supporters waving swastikas around and using accusations and finger pointing to defame his election bid. If you look at the history and what is being done and supported by what is kindly referred to as the nanny state. In 1931 Germany they used the same slogans, the same justifications and the same "protect the children" emotional blackmail, to control populations with fear mongering, cost analysis and an over excessive laying of blame. It is only a natural progression of cult hatred, that it becomes more extreme and eventually a competition, In order that it might survive, above a growing opposition. The KKK was once a very popular movement, with a large following they controlled the media, law making and the word on the street. This reinvented "Public Health movement" in many respects draws from the identical bigoted mindset and justifications.

    At the end of the war it was fashionable to pretend to smoke, as a statement that said we are not them.

    A one finger salute, to those who earned it.

  • skoony||

    99% of those that choose to vape that have never used a tobacco product use juice with zero nicotine. as far as addiction? here's what you didn't know about nicotine. http://www.ecigarette-politics.....-myth.html

  • Nate Pickering||

    Since 1986, it has effectively been enshrined in US federal law that "tobacco," "nicotine," and "cigarette smoking" are all the same thing, that every form of tobacco use is just as deadly as cigarettes, and that there is no acceptable use for nicotine except smoking cessation (and even then, the nicotine must be in a product made by Big Pharma).

    It's impossible to say how many smokers have been needlessly killed by this campaign of deception, but there's no way it isn't in the millions.

  • XM||

    I'm in CA and I'm seeing a tsunami of anti-vaping ads. Likes these ones here

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9S_m1uhXEI

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaMgWUBPeHY

    "These colorful packaging and fruit flavors are marketed to kids!"

  • MichaelL||

    Why don't people realize that many of these vaporizers use "juices" that do not contain any nicotine at all?! The addiction these kids get are not that of nicotine addiction. It is a result of "fad addiction" if you ask me! The vapes fad will cut the number of kids getting hooked on nicotine. Their peers cannot tell they are smoking non-nicotine juice! So, they look cool! And, they don't get any nicotine, tars, or any other combustible by-products that cigarettes produce!

  • MichaelL||

    Why don't people realize that many of these vaporizers use "juices" that do not contain any nicotine at all?! The addiction these kids get are not that of nicotine addiction. It is a result of "fad addiction" if you ask me! The vapes fad will cut the number of kids getting hooked on nicotine. Their peers cannot tell they are smoking non-nicotine juice! So, they look cool! And, they don't get any nicotine, tars, or any other combustible by-products that cigarettes produce!

  • skoony||

    the only ones showing these things to kids are the people that claim they are marketing to kids.

  • Nate Pickering||

    I'll never forget the day I turned 18 and stopped liking things that taste good.

    Now the only flavors I enjoy are Geritol and denture adhesive.

  • bestvape||

    People are generally skeptical and mistrusting of the institutions that guide and advise us but when something like this comes along it just shows how justified it can be.

    These people are either stupid or corrupt.

  • Nate Pickering||

    The members of the "tobacco control" leadership aren't stupid; certainly not stupid enough to believe the nonsense that regularly emanates from their lie holes. But they've ridden the wave of those lies into powerful positions in government and academia, and they obviously don't want the ride to end any time soon. And they're more than sociopathic enough that they don't care how many smokers' lives have to be sacrificed on the altar of their bullshit; they'll keep lying and lying and lying, because that's what must be done if their hugely profitable industry is going to survive. They are the ones who are corrupt and 100% evil.

    When you get down to the mid-level people and the foot soldiers in "public health" and "tobacco control," they're mostly just useful idiots. Often their intentions are perfectly good and honorable; they think they're actually working to improve public health and have no idea they're pawns in someone else's lie-based moral crusade of self-interest and social engineering. They are certainly ignorant, and arguably stupid, but they are not in any sense as evil as their "public health" overlords.

  • ClassicLib-NeverProg||

    Facts are irrelevant, E-cigs make the anti-smoking nuts feel uncomfortable so that's enough to treat them the same as cigarettes. It's very similar to the way swedish snus is treated, with surgeon general warnings despite absolutely no evidence that the warnings themselves are accurate.

  • Nate Pickering||

    There are two things that make the ANTZ go apoplectic with rage:

    1) The idea that smokers can quit smoking, in a relatively painless way, without sacrificing any of the things they enjoyed about smoking. In the ANTZ worldview, the smokers who don't die (the option they generally prefer) must quit, they must quit in an ANTZ-approved manner, and their method of quitting must involve as much suffering as possible, since smokers deserve to be punished for having become smokers in the first place.

    2) Any reduction in smoking prevalence for which they can't take exclusive credit. In the mind of a professional ANTZ, whenever the smoking rate goes down, it is 100% attributable to their efforts, and it means their rhetoric and strategies are working. On the other hand, whenever a low-risk alternative tobacco/nicotine product emerges that smokers actually seem to enjoy (in the real world, of course, these are the things that ACTUALLY drive reductions in smoking prevalence), the ANTZ go into a hysterical pearl-clutching fit about how this is going to turn every kid in America into a hopeless nicotine junkie, and it's only a matter of time before they're all smoking cigarettes. Therefore, you better increase our funding before it's too late, because these dangerous new-fangled products have the potential to undo the decades' worth of declines in smoking that we are solely responsible for. Since, as everybody knows, all tobacco/nicotine products magically "lead to smoking."

  • premium e-liquid||

    Thank you for sharing real information! I went from smoking Reds to vaping premium e-liquid and I feel so much better. Can sleep through the night now. It is not a tobacco product. If anything it is like nicorette gum and patches.

  • FXR||

    Something that does not seem to be tracked in the statistics is the question of nicotine. Of those who use e-cigs. a percentage and all indications would be that the majority do not use nicotine when they Vap. The gateway claims and the totals of those who could be defined as using cigarettes, would be significantly changed if we saw the numbers in all three groups. Unlike eating a tomato sandwich nicotine, is a choice that is voluntary and to a significant degree, offset in it's attractions, by the harshness of the juice blends that contain it.

    If vapping is smoking, with no nicotine, where does that place all the tales of woe, attached to the helplessness of drug addled smokers and their task of quitting. How do you then justify the necessity of the Public Health sector, to sell the alternative products of their "Stakeholder Partners"? The bottom line is in the claim of "help" or "protections" Public health groups insist people have a right to be protected. All seem to be insisting at the same time, we do not have a right to refuse that "help" and their [Putin styled] "protections".

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