EVIDENCE: Do e-cigarettes encourage youth smoking?

Many health and anti-tobacco groups have been waging a campaign against e-cigarettes and often claim that e-cigarette usage among youth encourage and lead them into smoking. However new research undermines those claims being made. The 2016 Monitoring the Future (MTF) annual survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health in the United Stated examined drug usage amongst different high school grades and the research found that cigarette smoking amongst different youth demographics have in fact dropped by the greatest amount in history.

 

Smoking amongst 8th Graders dropped from 3.6% to 2.6%. Amongst 10th Graders it dropped from 6.3% to 4.9% and amongst 12th graders it declined from 11.4% to 10.5% even though vaping and e-cigarette usage has increased since 2013. The data also shows that take-up of e-cigarettes is levelling out with the percentage of seniors using them declining from 16.2% to 12.4%.

In addition of those using e-cigarettes, 62.8% use just flavouring rather than nicotine/nicotine based substance.

What we can see is that vaping isn’t turning into an epidemic amongst youth. But even if the levels of vaping were higher than health groups would like, it is clear from the data that it has done more to provide tangible health benefits than simply telling people to not smoke cigarettes and hoping the cost and information of harms would be enough to stop it. If the claims of the health lobby were correct, cigarette smoking wouldn’t be dropping as drastically as it is but should by their logic be in fact increasing. Not only are kids smoking cigarettes less but when they are vaping, many are using much less addictive and dangerous substances. As such health groups need to put aside their ideological blindness to the evidence and be open to the positive outcomes that safer e-cigarette usage can offer people who would otherwise be smoking cigarettes.

The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance is running a campaign to work towards more meaningful policy to reduce the harms of tobacco and you can find out more here.

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