Is it a coincidence that teen smoking declined as e-cigs became more popular?

This summer the CDC announced that smoking tobacco cigarettes among teens has dropped to its lowest level since 1991.  At the same time, the use of electronic cigarettes among teens has risen.  The CDC reports the rise in a negative light, calling the behavior “risky”, however, with all we know about the health risks surrounding cigarette smoke, common sense would lead us to believe that the reduction in cigarette use among teens is directly linked to the popularity of e-cigs.

Government agencies have taken it upon themselves to presume that smoking electronic cigarettes is harmful because there is not enough information available about them.  The information we do have about the use of electronic cigarettes is that they have helped individuals who never considered quitting use of tobacco products to stop using tobacco products.  These individuals have anecdotally reported an increase in energy, and a better all-around feeling about themselves.  Further, individuals who smoke e-cigs often reduce the amount of nicotine intake as they transition from tobacco to e-cigs that are available in various nicotine levels.

We find it curious that government agencies would decide to label something for which there isn’t enough statistical data available as something that is dangerous – but that is what the CDC has done.  CDC director, Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. said, “Current cigarette smoking is at an all-time low, which is great news. However, it’s troubling to see that students are engaging in new risk behaviors, such as using e-cigarettes.  We must continue to invest in programs that help reduce all forms of tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, among youth.”

The problem with that statement is that e-cigs are not tobacco.  Also, for years U.S. government agencies have spent millions of dollars on anti-smoking campaigns that fell on deaf ears as teen smoking continued to rise.  In the early 2000s electronic cigarettes were introduced to the market and since then, smoking among all age groups began to decline.  If that is a coincidence, it is a pretty interesting one.

Those who are anti-electronic cigarettes will say that anti-smoking campaigns stepped up their pace around that same time, but those anti-smoking campaigns have been around since the 1960s and they didn’t work.  So why should we believe that they began to work at the same time that e-cigs came on the market?

The CDC reports that in 1991 28% of teenagers smoked tobacco products as compared to 11% who are smoking today – that’s a 17% decline over 15 years – more than 1% per year.  Instead of celebrating, government agencies are warning against the use of electronic cigarettes which makes absolutely no sense.

Let’s face facts, nicotine patches and gum contain more nicotine than most electronic cigarettes, yet those are considered smoking cessation aides.  The smoking cessation pills that are out on the market have been proven to have severely negative side effects yet they are still being prescribed for people who are trying to quit smoking.  All of these products were available on the market prior to the 1990s, yet none of them caused the dramatic decline in cigarette smoking that we are seeing since the advent of the e-cig which is being demonized as something that maybe, could be, might be bad if studies were done on them.  For the CDC to demonize something that is having such a positive effect on the war against cigarette smoking makes anything else they say much less credible.

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