CDC Inadvertently Supports Claims That Vaping Doesn’t Lead To Smoking In Teenagers CDC Inadvertently Supports Claims That Vaping Doesn’t Lead To Smoking In Teenagers

Study released earlier this year seemingly supports idea that vaping isn’t a gateway. Only problem is official CDC stance is “comprehensive tobacco control policies” should include e-cigarettes.

Over the years, one of the most prevalent arguments against vaping has been that the many flavors of e-liquids attract teenagers to vaping. The argument goes that this will lead the same teenagers to pick up traditional smoking eventually. This concern is a legitimate one, it would be terrible if something designed to help people off of cigarettes was actually herding the most vulnerable people right to it. That is why it has become such a popular position among government agencies and public health organizations to regulate e-cigarettes in the same ways as combustible cigarettes. One of the policy makers backing these sorts of positions was the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC. The 2016 Surgeon General’s report on e-cigarettes, which is published by the CDC, focused almost exclusively on preventive measures that mirror anti-smoking campaigns. Of their six goals, only the very last one is concerned with more research about e-cigarettes. In this way, like with most public health organizations, they are overly focused on preventing the problems they think they see, rather than trying to truly understand what is going on.

CDC Tobacco Use Study

Earlier this year, the CDC released a report that upon closer inspection flies in the face of everything they have preached about vaping so far. The report, entitled Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School Students – United States, 2011-2016, was commissioned to study the rate and types of smokers found in middle and high school. Researchers noted that almost all smokers start smoking as a teen or young adult. This is one of the main reasons they deem it so critical to understand what leads kids to smoking; Truly figuring this out could hold the key to eliminating smoking altogether. Their research found, among other things, since 2011 e-cigarette use nearly tripled among both middle and high school students. At the same time, smoking rates were decreasing in the same groups. They also confirmed that over half of teens who vape had already smoked tobacco prior to picking up e-cigarettes. But they were also clear to indicate that teenagers didn’t make this switch for smoking cessation purposes like with many smokers who decide to pick up vaping.

At first these numbers don’t seem to be doing any favors for vaping, if a bit innocuous. But if you consider the implications of these statistics then their relevance becomes clear. E-cigarette usage has exploded among the youth, especially since 2013. Meanwhile the smoking rate within the same groups has continued to steadily drop alongside most demographics. While we can’t all agree on the extent, most researchers can at least agree that vaping is much safer than smoking. So with smoking rates at an all time low in many places, it’s hard to argue that the explosion of e-cigarettes has led to a big revival in the smoking business. If anything, these statistics confirm the understanding of an ever increasing number of health organizations, that vaping in teens doesn’t actually lead to them picking up smoking. Unfortunately, the CDC is not yet one of these organizations. With that being the case, it seems they have inadvertently confirmed a stance they’re against, and they did it with research designed to discredit vaping no less.


It’s becoming hard to hide from the facts of vaping, even for the organizations who are mainly concerned with saving face instead of spreading facts. But this doesn’t mean things are over. It’s as important now as ever that we support the legitimate research which supports the benefits of switching to vaping. The more that organizations like the CDC focus on prohibition, the more they are feeding into the narrative that drives the general public’s poor understanding of the risks and benefits of vaping. Of course, we must ensure we aren’t endangering the youth, but equating vaping with smoking is only helping cause millions of more deaths through mandated ignorance.

What do you think about the CDC’s new study? Do you think that vaping leads teenagers to pick up smoking? How can we best protect kids, while not infringing on the right to legitimate information for people who smoke and want to quit? Let us know what you think in the comments.


Katie Bercham - CocktailNerd Editor

Katie actually had a negative first experience of electronic cigarettes, picking up a cheap and horrible model from my local mall. Thanks to a chance meeting with co-editor David, she hasn’t had a tobacco cigarette in over 5 years. She brings a strong female voice to the e-cig community.