The progress in smoking cessation can be considered reversed, only if you count vaping as tobacco use, and ignore the big difference in health hazards between the two forms of nicotine consumption.
“We were making progress, and now you have the introduction of a product that is heavily popular among youth that has completely erased that progress,” was quoted as saying CDC spokesman Brian King. He was referring to a CDC study published this week, indicating that tobacco use was about as common among high school students last year, as it was in 2017.
The problem with this study? The “progress” King is referring to has been “erased” only if you count vaping as tobacco use, and ignore the big difference in health hazards between the two forms of nicotine consumption. Last year Public Health England (PHE), released findings from an e-cigarette review that was conducted by leading independent tobacco experts, and updated the organization’s 2015 vaping report, confirming that that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking.
An article on Reason, rightly pointed out that the CDC on the other hand, an organization supposed to be striving to minimize morbidity and mortality by applying harm reduction measures, seems to totally ignore these figures. “The CDC, notwithstanding its supposed focus on minimizing morbidity and mortality, habitually obscures these important distinctions.”
The increase in vaping is positive for public health
In line with what many public health experts keep pointing out, the piece explains that if more people are vaping and as a result less people are smoking, given the relative safety of the devices, this is a victory for public health. “From a public health perspective, a situation in which 20 percent of high school students are vaping while 8 percent are smoking is vastly preferable to a situation in which 0 percent are vaping and 29 percent are smoking (as the NYTS found in 1999).”
In fact, the government-sponsored survey, the Monitoring the Future Study, which also detected a big increase in vaping last year, shows a continuing decline in past-month smoking among 12th-graders and past-month drop in cigarette smoking also amongst 10th-graders, although it ticked upward among eighth-graders (from 1.9 percent in 2017 to 2.2 percent in 2018).
Does vaping lead to smoking?
On the other hand FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is once again wrongly stating that vaping may lead teens to take up smoking. “As a society, we’ve made great strides in stigmatizing cigarette use among kids,” he said. “The kids using e-cigarettes are children who rejected conventional cigarettes, but don’t see the same stigma associated with the use of e-cigarettes. But now, having become exposed to nicotine through e-cigs, they will be more likely to smoke.”
In other words, Gottlieb is once again saying that e-cigarettes may act as a gateway to smoking by addicting teens who would have otherwise never experimented with tobacco, to nicotine. However, not only has the gateway theory been dispelled as unsound, if this were indeed the case, how can the drop in smoking rates amongst both teens and adults since the introduction of e-cigarettes, be explained?