smoking

News flash from the CDC: Teenagers are curious

in Health

According to recent data from the CDC, the most common reason teens in a survey tried e-cigarettes was “I was curious about them.” There you have it a teen vaping epidemic which is not caused by the presence of flavors in the vape e-liquids and disposable vapes. Its curiosity, plain and simple, and no legislation in the world is going to stop teenagers from being curious and trying things they probably shouldn’t. The best we can do, and that we as a society have already done, is pass legislation that limits sales to adults and to enforce that legislation at the retail level.

Those teenagers might be curious should come as no surprise. Curious teens will occasionally also smoke a cigarette, drink a beer, or even try their hand at musical theater. And it’s important to note that not every teenager who plays the role of Jean Valjean on the high school stage will go on to perform on Broadway, and not every teenager who takes a draw off of a puff bar will go on to vape on a regular basis.

More importantly, this data puts to rest the misinformation that teens vape because flavors are available, as if the lure of a fruit-flavored vape is so irresistible that it draws them into some sort of magical trance. According to the CDC research, over half (55.3 percent) of students surveyed who have tried e-cigarettes cited curiosity as the main reason, followed by 30.8 percent saying they tried vaping because their friend or their family member used them. Citing “they are available in flavors” came in only third, at 22.4 percent. About 17 percent of teens who use e-cigarettes do so because “they are less harmful than other forms of tobacco.”

Also interesting in the CDC study is the fact that they measure “current use” as being as little as a single puff of any tobacco product within the last 30 days. Cigarette use among teenagers is way down compared to twenty years ago, and although vaping is up, the increased vaping statistic is driven by simple curiosity, and the majority of those teenagers who report vaping are engaged in experimentation, and will not necessarily become regular users of vape products. They are, once again, curious. Very few of the news articles which reported the CDC’s misleading statistics mentioned that curiosity is the driving factor behind experimentation, and that such experimentation is a lot less frequent than they portray in their reports.

Another telling statistic is that among students who have never used e-cigarettes, 39.1 reported being curious about them, and 37.0 percent reported being curious about conventional cigarettes, a difference which is not significantly different. It is obvious from the results that, while students do indeed tend to be curious – that is their very nature – that curiosity is no more likely to result in vaping than it is in smoking (or even musical theater, for that matter!).

The CDC statistics do indeed show that 27.5 percent of high school students are using e-cigarettes. Mark Twain once popularized the saying “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” What the CDC does not include in the 27.5 percent figure is that very few of that 27.5 percent are vaping on a regular basis; the figure includes those who are merely curious, experimenting, and trying a vape just one time. Many of the teens within that 27.5 percent figure will try it once and only once. The actual statistic of teens who vape on a regular basis is far less.

Countless studies have shown that focusing on the flavors is nothing more than a misdirect. The real number to study is how, in places where e-cigarette usage has increased, conventional smoking rates have decreased; and since conventional smoking is far more harmful than vaping, this inverse relationship is actually a positive figure.

The evidence shows then, that contrary to the disinformation put forth by those anti-vaping activists and legislators who would prohibit adults from enjoying flavored vapes, flavors are not the reason teen’s vape. Eliminating flavors would do very little to discourage the incidence of teens vaping; the only thing that will do so is to continue enforcing age-restriction policies which are already in place.