After remaining relatively quiet over the last few years, the US Surgeon General has finally given his thoughts on the teenage vaping “epidemic”
The debate over vaping is something we’re all getting pretty used too. It seems like every week another news outlet or government agency is calling out vaporizers for their potential danger or the impact they’re having on teens. Those who see value in e-cigarettes point to the growing pile of peer-reviewed evidence which indicates vaping is much safer than cigarettes. Meanwhile, anti-vapers have placed a majority of their focus on what legitimization of vaping does to teens.
They argue that by accepting vaping for its harm reduction and smoking cessation purposes, we’re significantly increasing the chances a student ends up smoking. While this is indeed a serious concern and should be treated as such, we already have plenty of evidence which indicates these claims may be quite overblown. Regardless, another significant player in the vaping debate, the US Surgeon General, recently called into question the value of vaporizers.
The current Surgeon General of the United States is the well-respected physician, Jerome Adams. He’s held the position since September of 2017 and has remained relatively quiet on the impact of vaping on society. Unfortunately for vapers, he recently decided to break this trend and hold a news conference aimed at blasting the vaping industry. As with most other agencies who are currently questioning the value of vaping, Dr. Adams is mainly concerned with what sort of impact vaping is having on the youngest generation. They are worried that by accepting vaping as a smoking cessation and harm reduction tool, it will signal to teens that they’re harmless and should be taken up even if they’ve never smoked before. Unsurprisingly though, Dr. Adams ultimately made some weak arguments to make his case. In fact, many of his best arguments were quite misleading.
For example, he pointed to a popular statistic that teenage vaping has nearly doubled in only a few short years, but he failed to mention the woeful parameters used to determine if someone is a “vaper” or not. According to current guidelines, having tried a vape even once in the last 30 days constitutes a full-blown vaper and puts them in the same group as everyday vapers. Another piece of obviously misleading information disseminated by Dr. Adams and others is that one Juul Pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. While this is technically true, the full context makes things much more clear. One Juul Pod lasts just as long, if not longer, than an entire pack of cigarettes. Meaning vapers aren’t getting more nicotine, but instead transferring it from one source to a proven less dangerous one.
It’s clear from Dr. Adam’s comments that he thinks vaping is a severe problem, but a majority of the large-scale research published about vaping finds that it’s much better than continued smoking. We’ve known since 2015 that vaping is at least 95% safer than tobacco, but as recently as last month another study backed up this figure by finding vaping exposes users to about 93% fewer toxicants than smoking does. If that’s not enough, we also now know the excess lifetime cancer risk of a vaper is around 57,000 times lower than a comparable smoker. But possibly even more important than the harm reduction value of vaping is their smoking cessation benefits. A study published out of the University of Louisville concluded that vaping is the best smoking cessation tool on the market, even beating out prescription drugs.
But even putting all this evidence aside, there’s still plenty of reason to trust vaping isn’t creating a new generation of smokers. A massive study of over 60,000 teens conducted by Action on Smoking and Health found that only between 0.1% and 0.5% of non-smoking teens are ever picking up vaporizers habitually. This type of grouping makes much more sense since most people are naturally curious and liable to try new things once or twice. Even more importantly though, these figures mean that far less than even 0.1% of non-smoking teens are ever ending up full-blown smokers because of the acceptance of vaping.
2019 is set to be a make or break year for the vaping industry. With all of the rhetoric and regulations reaching a head, this may be the year that things shift in a big way, one way or another. If we want to ensure that they shift toward better vaping rights instead of away from them, we must work to spread all the best information we have on vaping. Teaching the smokers in your life about the benefits of vaping is the best way to help them improve their lives. Smoking still kills more people every year than almost anything else, so it’s clear something must be done. If we ever want to live in a world truly free of cigarettes once and for all, we’ll likely need all the help from vaping we can get.
Does battles like this over vaping worry you? How could we help change the narrative surrounding the vaping industry? What’s the biggest challenge still facing vaping in your opinion? 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.