Smoke and Mirrors: Teenage E-Cigarette Use Down
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There is a lot of misinformation regarding e-cigarettes. If you’re the parent of a teen, you have probably seen the sensational headlines about “studies” concluding that teens are vaping at “record highs” because it’s now what the “cool kids” are doing. However, this “fact” couldn’t be further from the truth.
A debate is ongoing about whether or not e-cigarettes will lead teenagers down the Big Tobacco road. Some healthcare trade associations are claiming “doom and gloom” because teens are allegedly using e-cigarettes at a staggering rate.
However, a recent study published by the University of Michigan, the same team that conducts the federal “Monitoring the Future” (MTF) survey, one of the annual reports of teen substance use in the United States, found that nicotine-based vaping among teens surveyed was fairly uncommon. Such findings beg the question as to why, then, politicians and healthcare professionals would advocate such an intellectually dishonest point.
In the most recent publication, the MTF concluded that only 13 percent of eighth-graders and 20 percent of 10th- and 12th-graders had opted for nicotine-based vape juice. The researchers also debunked a common myth that teenage vaping was a gateway to increased use of marijuana, with only 6 percent of teenage vapers from 8th-grade through 12th-grade having used marijuana.
Taking a closer look at the data, there is a fair amount of evidence suggesting that vaping is far less harmful to individuals than smoking traditional cigarettes. Considering that e-cigarette users inhale a vaporized liquid (vape juice), not smoke, researchers have suggested that many of the harmful constituents found in cigarette smoke are nearly non-existent in e-cigarettes.
Despite such findings, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in 2016 that it would begin regulating the use of e-cigarettes. The FDA’s new regulatory announcement would put e-cigarettes, which the agency considers “Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems,” under the same regulatory restrictions as traditional cigarettes.
But according to the University of Michigan researchers, the FDA’s description of e-cigarettes is completely inaccurate. Taking into consideration that most teens do not use nicotine-based products in their vaporizers or e-cigarettes, the researchers concluded that “the majority of U.S. youth who use vaporizers and e-cigarettes do not vape nicotine...This finding challenges many common assumptions and practices, and points to the need for vaporizer-specific research to assess and ultimately regulate the public health threat of vaporizers.”