Survey Reveals That Teen Ecig Use Has Surpassed Smoking

A brand new survey about teen tobacco and drug use revealed some startling changes this week. While teen smoking has been a major problem for decades, it seems the tides are turning and now vaping is far more prevalent among teenagers than tobacco use. The annual drug use survey showed that teen smoking has reached an all time low with only four percent of eighth graders reporting that they smoked a cigarette in the past month. However, nine percent admitted to using an e-cig in that time frame.

The survey also revealed that vaping and tobacco use increased as students got older. Around 16 percent of 10th graders said they used an ecig in the past month with 12th graders only marginally higher at 17 percent. In contrast, only seven percent of 10th graders had smoked a cigarette in the previous month, while 14 percent of 12th graders admitting to tobacco use. Across all age groups, vaping was more prevalent than smoking regular cigarettes.

Professor Lloyd Johnston, the University of Michigan researcher that pioneered the survey, said the growth in ecig use is bothersome. “I worry that the tremendous progress that we’ve made over the last almost two decades in smoking could be reversed on us by the introduction of e-cigarettes.” However, it seems that the survey tells an opposite story. Instead of leading to more teen smoking, the dawn of ecigs has led to a drop in tobacco use among young people.

Professor Richard Miech, the study’s senior investigator, said that he believes teens are looking at ecigs as a healthier alternative to tobacco use. “They must think that e-cigarettes are fundamentally different,” he explained.

Only a small percentage (less than 7 percent) of teens that used ecigs said they had not used tobacco previously. The vast majority of the vaping teenagers were previously smokers. The survey also did not get detailed information on ecig use, leaving out some important information on whether the teens had simply experimented with vaping once or whether they were regularly using electronic cigarettes.

The survey also revealed some other big changes among the teen population. Marijuana use had leveled off after increasing for the past few years. Around 6 percent of 8th graders reported smoking pot in the past month, while 17 percent of 10th graders and 21 percent of 12th graders said they had used marijuana. Most shockingly, around six percent of 12th graders reported daily pot use.

Researchers also found that synthetic marijuana products are not nearly as popular as in previous years. While 11 percent of 12th graders had used the synthetic drugs like K2 and Spice in 2012, this year only 6 percent said they had tried these products in the past month. Prescription painkillers are also a declining trend with the number of high school seniors reported taking these drugs at 9.5 percent in 2004 and only 6 percent in 2014. Binge drinking has also declined. In 2009, 1 in 4 seniors reported binge drinking in the past two weeks, but the recent study showed that the dangerous alcohol use had declined to only 1 in 5.

While the mainstream media is attempting to spin the recent survey to paint ecigs as a villain, a few level headed people are speaking out to set the record straight. Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said the survey doesn’t make a case that ecigs are a gateway to tobacco use. There is simply no proof for that claim.

Dr. Michael Siegel, an anti-smoking advocate and professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, said ecigs are actually helping kids avoid tobacco use. “These national data suggest that electronic cigarettes may actually be serving as a deterrent to smoking by diverting kids who might otherwise try smoking over to a non-tobacco nicotine product,” he said.

Over at the American Vaping Association, President Gregory Conley said the survey gives us an important look at how ecigs are impacting teen culture. “The most important part of this survey is also likely to be the most underreported – youth smoking has declined to a record low,” he explained. “This drop in youth smoking comes despite several years of hype and conjecture by reckless activists who have been keen to portray vaping as a gateway to traditional cigarettes.”

Conley said that while the perfect world would have teens avoiding all nicotine products, it’s a positive step to see young people at least moving away from tobacco. “No use of vapor products by youth is obviously the ideal, but we do not live in a perfect world. Importantly, there remains no evidence that e-cigarettes are acting as gateways to real cigarettes. In fact, this study and others suggest that the availability of vapor products may have stopped many youth from becoming smokers over the last three years.”

The American Vaping Association hopes to see more detailed surveys on ecig use among teens. “Surveys should begin asking regular users of e-cigarettes whether they are using nicotine or nicotine-free devices, as this distinction is critical to forecasting the public health impact of youth choosing vaping over smoking,” Conley explained.

One thing is certain: Teens are wising up to the dangers of tobacco use and they are making a smart choice by steering clear of traditional cigarettes. While vaping is a growing trend, it seems that it is definitely the lesser of two evils. Are you concerned that teens are turning to ecigs more frequently?

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