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Should You Be Worried About Your Kids Starting to Use E-Cigs?

There’s been a lot of attention on e-cigarettes recently, and much of this takes the form of concern about growing e-cigarette use by children. Emotions run high, and since some kids manage to get their hands on cigarettes, it’s only plausible to worry that they may get their hands on e-cigarettes too. A widely-cited source of evidence on this topic is a survey conducted by the CDC, which found that between 2011 and 2012, the number of teens who’d used an e-cigarette doubled. So, is this a new route to tobacco addiction for our kids?

Not really. The CDCs survey was presented as if it offered proof that e-cigarette are a “gateway” to smoking for youth, but they didn’t actually find this, as you’ll learn in a moment. Of course, the core issue is: are they dangerous? There have been many pieces of research on e-cigs, and the conclusion which can be drawn from the current body of evidence is an emphatic “no.” In fact, without the carcinogens and mass of additional chemicals found in traditional cigarettes, they have the potential to save millions of lives around the world.

The CDC’s Youth Electronic Cigarette Use Survey

The CDC’s National Youth Tobacco Survey found that e-cigarette use among children doubled in 2012, and this was communicated in a pretty damning fashion in an accompanying press release. The problem is that if you look at what they actually found, the panic kicked up over the original results seems at best, a bit extreme and at worst, downright unjustified.

Although the finding that 10 percent of high school students reported having tried an electronic cigarette brand in the past year seems shocking, the numbers shrink notably when “current” users are considered, down to 2.8 percent of high schoolers. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of these were high school students who also smoked, with only 0.6 percent being non-smokers who used an e-cigarette. Across the whole sample – including middle school students – this decreases to 0.5 percent. That’s one in 200 respondents.

 

However, even this is extreme, because the survey didn’t classify a current user of e-cigarettes in the way you would expect. In fact, anybody who’d tried an e-cigarette as little as once in the previous month was classed as a “current” user. Technically speaking, this means the CDC can’t definitively say that any of the respondents used an e-cig daily. They just don’t know, because they didn’t ask the sensible question. Thinking rationally about the findings, it seems plausible that since the vast majority of e-cig users were also smokers, it’s likely that most of the non-smokers had just had a puff on an e-cigarette owned by a smoker-friend out of curiosity. The fact that they’d done so in the last month doesn’t make them current users, and a similar piece of research in the UK found no evidence of non-smoking youths regularly using e-cigs.

The Bottom Line – Are E-Cigs a Risk to Youth?

The most important thing to remember is that cigarettes are undeniably worse than e-cigarettes, and cigarettes are smoked in much larger numbers by teens. The thing to worry about is tobacco use; the concern about e-cigs is misplaced. In fact, if you ever discover an e-cig cartridge or liquid-bottle in your electronic cigarette brand in the past year seems shocking, the numbers shrink notably when “current” users are considered, down to 2.8 percent of high schoolers. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of these were high school students who also smoked, with only 0.6 percent being non-smokers who used an e-cigarette. Across the whole sample – including middle school students – this decreases to 0.5 percent. That’s one in 200 respondents.

However, even this is extreme, because the survey didn’t classify a current user of e-cigarettes in the way you would expect. In fact, anybody who’d tried an e-cigarette as little as once in the previous month was classed as a “current” user. Technically speaking, this means the CDC can’t definitively say that any of the respondents used an e-cig daily. They just don’t know, because they didn’t ask the sensible question. Thinking rationally about the findings, it seems plausible that since the vast majority of e-cig users were also smokers, it’s likely that most of the non-smokers had just had a puff on an e-cigarette owned by a smoker-friend out of curiosity. The fact that they’d done so in the last month doesn’t make them current users, and a similar piece of research in the UK found no evidence of non-smoking youths regularly using e-cigs.

The Bottom Line – Are E-Cigs a Risk to Youth?

The most important thing to remember is that cigarettes are undeniably worse than e-cigarettes, and cigarettes are smoked in much larger numbers by teens. The thing to worry about is tobacco use; the concern about e-cigs is misplaced. In fact, if you ever discover an e-cig cartridge or liquid-bottle in your teen’s pants-pocket, chances are he or she used to smoke and is now trying to stop. It’s most likely to be a good thing.

The “e-cigarettes are luring children into addiction” argument is thankfully little more than scare-stories from the media based on misleading pieces of research. Why there is such a desire to propagate these viewpoints is anybody’s guess, but we’re exposed to them regardless. The real shame would be if these accusations impacted on the availability of a product with such huge potential for reducing smoking related diseases and death, for both us and every generation to follow.

 

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About Sharon

Sharon is a mom, blogger and wannabe author. Who soon plans to go back to college to finish her degree in the event her aspiring ninja slayer/Youtube star/writing careers do not work out. This is my place to talk about my life family and anything else I think of.


Comments

  1. I all the time used to read article in news papers but now as I am a user of web thus from now I am
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  2. While I would not call an e-Cigarrette healthy. I would say that it is much healthier than a normal analog cigarette. I am all for things that are healthier than the popular norm. I really go into e-cigs when I started to buy analogs again. After using E’s and mixing my own nic levels I eventually stopped ecigs as well. If I start craving normal cigarettes again I will break out my electronic cig.

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