You may of seen a lot of publicity about teenagers using electronic cigarettes last week. A National Youth Tobacco survey reported the number of teenagers who have tried electronic cigarettes increased from 4.7% in 2011 to 10% in 2012, an increase of over 100%.
What they didn’t tell you was that teen cigarette smoking has dropped to the lowest point ever recorded. A US government study showed among eighth-graders, seniors and sophomores at high school cigarette smoking was down over 300%. This was just one of the findings from a large report studying the well-being of children in America. Other interesting points from the study included:
- Children are less likely to be exposed to second hand smoking, a fall from 53% in 2008 to 42% in 2010.
- An increase in teenage binge drinking. 25% of high school seniors admitted to binge drinking in the past two weeks.
- Obesity levels in kids stayed roughly the same with over 30% of kids being overweight or obese in the last few years. Child obesity has doubled in the last 30 years.
E-cigarettes in the spotlight
With 5% of kids smoking tobacco, 25% binge drinking alcohol and over 30% overweight or obese, 3 of the biggest causes of illness and death, you can understand why the electronic cigarette community are surprised by so much publicity in a rise of electronic cigarette use. Not one mention was made about the impending health crisis caused by unhealthy eating and increased binge drinking. Lifestyle choices that are proven to cause serious illness and death.
Electronic cigarette use is on the rise globally
With e-cigarette sales expected to exceed tobacco cigarettes by 2021 it would be naive to not expect a rise in teen usage. While 10% of teenagers have tried electronic cigarettes, the amount of regular users must be far less.
Think About the Children!
While we can all agree the health of our youth is extremely important we need to be careful not to let sensationalist media dictate policy for safe guarding the health and well being of our kids. The negative health effects of products like alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food are well documented. Why should we focus solely on electronic cigarette use which currently have no proven adverse health effects and is almost certainly far safer than tobacco?
Several studies have shown health effects from e-cigarette use to be very mild, with most medical professionals agreeing electronic cigarettes being 100-500 times better than tobacco smoking.
Electronic cigarettes have been shown to be more effective than nicotine patches for helping people quit and help 57% of people reduce tobacco consumption.
Knee jerk reactions and over regulation could reduce the effectiveness of these products to help current smokers quit and avoid the many health risks associated with smoking tobacco.
Kids are a lot smarter these days than people give them credit. If you think a kid will consume anything just because it has a candy flavour you are massively underestimating the intelligence of young adults. If a teenager chooses to use an electronic cigarette instead of smoking tobacco this has to be a positive decision for their long term health.
Teenagers Rebel and One of the Most Common Ways is by Smoking Cigarettes
It is likely that teenagers that try electronic cigarettes would be the same teenagers that may of started smoking cigarettes instead. It seems unlikely that health conscious teenagers who manage to avoid the peer pressure to smoke cigarettes would use electronic cigarettes. In fact there is evidence that kids who feel peer pressure to smoke may instead use an electronic cigarette as it removes the pressure from them. Morgan Abbe, 15, said if she had friends that were smoking, she’d want them to be smoking e-cigarettes over traditional cigarettes.
A lot has been done to educate our youth about the dangers of tobacco smoking. But at least some of the drop in teenage smoking and reduction in exposure to second hand smoke must be as a result of electronic cigarettes.
Focus on Smoking not Vaping
Long term cigarette addiction starts at a young age. More than a third of all kids who ever try smoking a cigarette become daily smokers before leaving high school. Nearly 9 out of 10 smokers start smoking by age 18. If would-be smokers can avoid tobacco by using electronic cigarettes instead perhaps a lifelong addiction to cigarettes can be avoided.
Electronic cigarettes should always be used as a method for reducing the harm from tobacco smoking. Unnecessary use by anyone, especially kids should be avoided and restrictions on age of sale is welcomed and already self enforced by the industry. However much like cigarettes and alcohol, teenagers will always manage to get these products. If tobacco can be replaced with electronic cigarettes this can only be a good thing for everyone, including our youth.