According to the latest Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance report — an annual review of teen risk trends by the CDC — teen cigarette use appears to be at the lowest it’s ever been since the reports began. Despite the report having absolutely no data on e-cig use by teens, Dr. Thomas Frieden (CDC director) made sure to claim that we should all be concerned about rapidly rising use of e-cigs among teens despite this low in smoking.
There’s quite a lot wrong with this. First and foremost, if the CDC wants to say something about electronic cigarettes in reference to a youth risk report, it should include some look at youth use of e-cigs. You can read the report right here. While e-cig use is increasing among teens, it does seem a little odd that e-cigs would be so quickly mentioned in discussion of this report without actually having been studied by it.
Perhaps they want to get ahead of one simple theory — that e-cigs might be part of the cause of smoking’s all-time low among teens. For years, the decline in smoking rates had been at a bit of a plateau — declining at such a slow rate as to hardly be called success for counter-smoking programs.
Suddenly an alternative enters the market, and the declining smoking rate appears to be back on track.
There are certainly teens out there using e-cigs. Is that a bad thing? Not if they would be smoking instead.
That said, the anti-smoking efforts out there are still failing in many ways. Roughly 41% of students surveyed have tried smoking at least once. That implies that cigarettes aren’t being kept out of the hands of teens. This is exactly why many experts agree that legal restrictions only go so far. For those teens are going to smoke anyway, there needs to be something cooler, more accessible, and less harmful.
Anti-smoking talks tend to give equal time to arguing against both traditional cigarettes and electronic cigarettes despite a massive difference in harm. In what world does that make sense?