Thomas Frieden is worried about e-cigarettes. The director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes that because e-liquid comes in flavors, children and teens will be led to smoking real cigarettes once they get a taste of a strawberry or watermelon flavored e-cig. Mr. Frieden is apparently a logical man, because he knows that “the plural of anecdote is not data,” which is why he doesn’t believe in the surveys that show that millions of American smokers have successfully quit smoking with the help of e-cigarettes.
But Mr. Frieden is able to believe a survey that showed that teens who try e-cigs are less inclined to say they’ll never smoke than other teens, and he sees this as proof that kids right now are smoking because they got hooked on tobacco through e-cigarettes.
It’s this kind of logic that causes many in government to continue to insist that e-cigarettes are harmful, especially to the youth of America. The reality is that in the teen survey, a whopping 97 percent of teens who had tried an e-cig said they would not consider smoking cigarettes. Of the 3 percent that said they would, it is plausible that they were inclined to want to smoke to begin with, and tried an e-cig because of that, and not because they were drawn in by the promise of tasty candy flavors.
Furthermore, in the years since e-cigarettes and vaping have been on the rise, teen smoking rates have declined, not risen. Despite all the evidence, both survey data and sound scientific research that fails to show any relationship between e-cigarettes and bad health, most anti-smoking groups are firm in their anti-e-cigarette stance and have managed to convince many U.S. lawmakers to see their point of view.
The problem with the anti-vaping craze is that making e-cigarettes less attractive by banning flavors or taxing e-cigarettes heavily could have the very effect that anti-smokers want to avoid: driving people to choose regular cigarettes instead.
The flavor frenzy is a big part of anti-vaping rhetoric. The vaping industry has been accused of targeting children and teens specifically because it offers flavored e-liquid. But a reality check shows us two things:
• Flavored tobacco cigarettes are illegal in the U.S., so it makes no sense to think that someone who uses e-cigs for the flavors would switch to tobacco cigarettes which are only available in plain or menthol.
• Adults like flavors too. In fact, about 75 percent of e-cig users who quit smoking said they prefer flavors to the taste of tobacco, and many said that flavor variety in e-cigarettes is important to them.
Eliminating flavored e-liquid would render e-cigarettes all the more similar to tobacco cigarettes, and give smokers one less reason to make the healthier choice of vaping.