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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Teenagers Say No to Drugs and Tobacco, Yes to Vaping

This dramatic shift from cigarette use to vaping should be celebrated.

According to a recent report released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), today’s teens are actually better behaved than the generations which preceded them, relatively speaking.

According to the annual Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) fewer teens are having sex and using drugs or alcohol. In fact, today’s teenagers actually have the lowest rates of ecstasy, heroin, and meth use on record.

In 1991, 27.5% of teens considered themselves smokers. Today only 10.8% do, but 44.9% said they have used a vaping device.Even more shocking is the declining number of teenagers who say they smoke cigarettes. To put this decline in perspective, in 1991, 27.5 percent of teens surveyed said they considered themselves smokers. In the latest report, only 10.8 percent of teenagers polled said they would label themselves as smokers.

Though there are potentially several reasons for this decline, another finding in the report suggests that one of the biggest factors involved is the rise of e-cigarettes. Though this is the first YRBSS report that includes any data on teens and their use of vaping devices, 44.9 percent of the teenagers surveyed said they have used a vaping device.

This news comes at an interesting time for the vape industry. Recently, the FDA has passed new regulations which classify e-liquid, the substance used in vape devices, as a tobacco product. These new regulations require that each vaping device be put through a “Pre-Market Tobacco Applications” (PMTA) process before it can be sold on the market. However, this is not something that can be done by simply filling out some paperwork. For each separate device needing approval, it will take the FDA upwards of 1,700 hours and cost the manufacturer millions of dollars.

Continuing its war on the vaping industry, the Department of Health and Human Services just launched a campaign to persuade teens and young adults to “just say no” to vaping. The campaign’s website claims that since nicotine is found in tobacco products, vaping still comes with the same risks as tobacco. However, many e-liquid producers have been moving towards synthetic nicotine, which is made in a lab and is completely independent of tobacco.

Since the vaping industry is relatively new and comprised of mostly small business owners, many of whom are millennials, the new regulations will put many of these companies out of business. The only players in the vape industry who will not be subject to these new regulations are the big tobacco companies, who have seen a major decline in sales since vaping has become more widespread.

The FDA has allowed a loophole for all vape products released on the market before February 15, 2007. Since this was before vaping became a major trend, the only companies who had products manufactured before the 2007 date are, ironically enough, the big tobacco companies.

Even though there have been many studies which have shown e-cigarettes to be a healthier option than cigarette use, especially considering that e-liquid contains absolutely no tobacco, the federal government insists this is not the case and has even prohibited vaping devices from listing the health benefits of vaping on their product’s packaging.

Government regulations against vaping in favor of big tobacco could impact the cigarette decline.Aside from the egregious display of crony capitalism which gives a clear advantage to the big tobacco companies,  these regulations could have an impact on the decline we are currently seeing when it comes to the number of Americans who smoke cigarettes.

According to the extensive research done by Britain’s Royal College of Physicians, using vaping devices instead of traditional cigarettes will “prevent almost all of the harm from smoking.” Also worth noting, Britain’s Royal College of Physicians was one of the first organizations to find the link between lung cancer and smoking cigarettes, a finding that the United States government denied until two years after Britain’s Royal College of Physicians had released its findings.

Though many opponents of the vaping industry have insisted that e-cigarettes will serve as a “gateway to smoking,” as the latest YRBBS report has shown, teen smoking is down dramatically while, at the same time, the use of vaping is up. If anything, the rise of vaping is actually doing more to deter teens from smoking.

The same is true for the adult population. From 2005 to 2014, the adult smoking rate decreased from 20.9 percent to 16.9 percent, which also happens to coincide with the rise of vape use. This dramatic shift from cigarette use to vaping should be celebrated, especially since fewer and fewer teens are finding themselves addicted to cigarettes.

This first appeared at Generation Opportunity.

  • Brittany is a writer for the Pacific Legal Foundation. She is a co-host of “The Way The World Works,” a Tuttle Twins podcast for families.