A new report shows the dramatic drop in teenage smoking coinciding with the explosion of vaping as a smoking cessation tool
One of the best ways to understand and track a topic is through surveys. Monitoring the Future is one of the leaders in tracking and understanding the behaviors and beliefs of youth in America. Every year MTF releases a report that includes, along with many other topics, questions about teens relationships with tobacco and vaping. The most current survey results showed that teen smoking rates continue to drop, reaching historic lows. The numbers of this report discredit the common misconception that the popularity of vaping will slow or even reverse this decline.
Despite evidence to the contrary, there are still many who believe legitimizing vaping for smoking cessation, and harm reduction will lead to an increase of tobacco usage by teens and stand by their assertions. They feel that teens will think vaping is entirely harmless and that it will result in a gateway to the use of tobacco. Many different types and styles of research have rebuked this, as many feel there has not been enough time to know if the analysis will reflect the correct outcomes. Seeing a well respected and independent organization also confirm and support the idea that vaping is helping and not hindering is encouraging.
The MTF Report
The most striking statistic of this year’s MTF report was hands down, the dramatic drop in the rate of high schoolers currently smoking. The rate, just among seniors, has gone from 36.5%, down to 9.7%. Younger classes had even more dramatic plummets. Tenth graders went from 30.4% to 5.0%, and Eighth graders went from 21% to 1.9%. These trends are holding true, if not increasing, even as the vaping industry explodes in popularity over the last decade.
Since 2014, the MTF report has also been asking teens questions about their relationship with vaping. Last year they found that 16.6% of high school seniors had vaped at least once within the previous month. The numbers were lower among younger students; 13.1% among sophomores, and 6.6% among eighth graders. These numbers represent a rise in vaping among youth since the survey first included it. A few other studies have marked that vaping among teens practically tripled between 2011 and 2013.
Many have written about why it is that the significant rise in vaping among teens hasn’t correlated with an increase in tobacco use. It’s been posited that the rates remain so low because teens don’t view vaping as a tobacco product. According to the MTF’s findings 58% of the seniors who reported vaping use only 0 nicotine e-liquids. The CDC also did a study on this topic, and they found that less than 3% of teens who vape are doing so regularly. Other studies on the subject have also found similar statistics in their findings.
Last year Public Health England, the UK’s public health agency, released a study that analyzed the rates of teens smoking and vaping last year. PHE interviewed 60,000 students aged 11-16, about vaping and their relationship with it. Their study found that there was no relationship between vaping and taking up smoking. Their findings showed that only 0.5% of teens who never smoke, vape regularly. The overwhelming majority of teens who currently vape on a daily basis were previously smokers.
While many still hold out the belief that vaping will lead teens to take up cigarette smoking, these statistics unanimously say no. It would appear that teens who take up vaping are doing it for the same reasons as adults; harm reduction and smoking cessation. It was PHE back in 2015 who conducted a study that found that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking, and it would seem teens have taken note of that.
While no one is promoting that minors should vape, its a shame there are those who still hold the belief that e-cigarettes will lead to teenage smoking. Vaping is still young, and there are many long-term studies yet to come, but with the decade or so of information, we do have there is a clear consensus growing. Vaping is 95% safer than smoking, it is the most effective cessation tool on the market, and it is an indispensable harm reduction tool. Despite scientific evidence, there are still many people who remain undecided on vaping or feel outright that it ought not to be accepted for some unforeseen consequence.
Ultimately we must support vaping if we want to end the fight against tobacco finally. There are those who villainize vaping, saying that vapers will tire of it and go back to cigarettes, or that the practice is luring children with false advertising that it is 100% safe. The real evidence we have shows that teens are utilizing vaping for the same purpose as adults, and that purpose is health and safety.
Are non-smokers more likely to start smoking due to vaping? Should teens be able to use vaporizers for smoking cessation purposes? What’s the best way to increase the vaping rights in America? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.