If Less Vaping Means More Smoking, That Won’t Be a Public Health Victory

According to the Federal Trade Commission, cigarette sales increased in America last year for only the second time in 20 years. Although the 0.4 percent increase may be due at least partly to smokers who stocked up on cigarettes during the COVID-19 pandemic, it coincided with declines in e-cigarette use by teenagers and adults—a potential warning sign that the campaign against vaping is undermining public health by boosting cigarette consumption.

It appears that the number of adult smokers has continued to decline, even though there have been an increase in cigarettes purchases in 2020. Preliminary data from National Health Interview Survey showed that the prevalence of current cigarette smoking among Americans over 18 was around 13 percent. That’s down from 14 per cent in 2019 and 40 percent respectively in 1965. This survey also found that “current electronic tobacco use” has declined from 4.5 percent to less 4 percent between 2019 and 2020.

Monitoring the Future Study however found that the rate of high-school seniors smoking past-months rose 32 percent from 5.7 to 7.5 percent in 2019, up from 5.7 percent in 2019. This jump coincided with an increase in vaping, following three years of declines. It was strikingly different from the trend toward a decrease in adolescents smoking cigarettes that started in the 1990s. The rate of smoking cigarettes among 12th graders has declined or been steady since 1997. This was when 36.5 per cent said that they had.

Although we shouldn’t make too many assumptions about one year of data, the results support the idea that teens are vaping more than smoking. The journal published a 2018 study that drew on data from multiple surveys. Tobacco ControlIt was found that vaping has made the declining use of cigarettes in adolescents more common. A 2021 study in The Journal of the American Medical AssociationThere was evidence to show that the San Francisco 2018 ban on flavored ecigarettes increased smoking among teenagers and young people. This suggests that policies designed to stop underage vaping in the way that make it less attractive, more costly, or more difficult to get e-cigarettes encourage the use of much more dangerous product.

The Monitoring the Future Study and the National Youth Tobacco Survey both found that adolescent tobacco smoking declined while adolescent nicotine use increased. The prevalence of vaping during the past month among high schoolers increased from 11.3 to 27.5 percent between 2016-2019, and the rate of past-month smoking decreased from 8 to 5.8 percent. The vaping rate fell to 19.6 percent in 2020 and 11.3 percent in 2021—a 59 percent drop over two years. Although the 2020 smoking rate was 4.6 percent, 2021’s number hasn’t been yet published.

The fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which monitors the NYTS (CDC), chose to first release 2021 ecigarette data reflects their determination to keep the public concerned about adolescent smoking. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates the vaping market, cited the numbers of e cigarettes as the reason it is so strict. It also has a bias against flavors that ex-smokers prefer. The sharp drop in teens using e-cigarettes was not acknowledged by either agency. The NYTS results have not been released by the CDC so it is unclear if that decline coincided or not with an increase among adolescents smoking. This would further cast doubt on the efficacy of FDA and CDC policies.

The policies are not only restricted by law, but also include propagandists who deliberately hide the huge difference in health risks between vaping and smoking. While FDA admits the dangers of vaping, it sends out alarmist messages about the health risks to adolescents that suggest that vaping may be even more hazardous than smoking. For many years, activists and officials have tried to minimize, ignore, or deny the potential life-saving benefits of vaping. Americans now have a greater understanding of the risks and benefits associated with each habit.

According to 2019 results of two surveys from the US, between 2012 and 2017, the percentage of people who incorrectly perceived vaping as being less harmful than traditional combustible cigarettes fell from 51% to 35% in one study and from 39% to 44% in the other. The incorrect belief that vaping was as dangerous as smoking grew from 46 to 56 percent and 12 percent respectively. Vaping was incorrectly believed to be safe. MoreThe dangers of smoking were tripled, with nearly 10% in each survey and over 4 percent in the second.

Another survey found that confusion was caused by misinformation surrounding a spate lung injury caused black-market THC Vapes. The CDC unwisely encouraged vaping to be equated with nicotine products. According to two Morning Consult surveys, 14 percent of Americans now believe vaping is more dangerous than smoking.

Exaggerating the dangers of vaping is not only dishonest, unethical, but also harmful to public health. The FDA and CDC are supposedly trying to accomplish the opposite goal by making vaping less popular.