One of the most commonly used arguments against vaping or relaxing legislation is the fear of encouraging teens to start vaping. UK data shows there is nothing to fear.
Tobacco controllers who have turned their attention to any use of nicotine frequently cite that a cautionary approach must be made to ‘protect the children. They point to dubious figures from the United States, but the truth is that there is no epidemic in the USA and annual reports from England paint a positive picture.
Who says there’s a teen problem?
American organisations like The Truth Initiative and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids initially spoke positively, albeit cautiously, about vaping when it began. Quickly, for reasons only known to themselves, they began spreading ‘ever use’ data to support a claim that there was a “teen epidemic” of vaping in the States.
What is ‘ever use’?
It’s the largest figure they can muster which includes teens who have tried vaping once and never touched an electronic cigarette again. Any parent who has fought with a child to get them to eat one single Brussel sprout will know they can’t claim their child loves eating the little green marbles of loathing. The same applies to ever use figures and harm reduction experts say the real rate in the USA mirrors that found in the UK.
How has America responded to the claimed epidemic?
Prohibition. Having succeeded with the banning of alcohol so well during the ’20s-’30s, the USA is banning flavours, sales and use state by state.
Has it been successful?
Not according to The Heartland Institute. It has described the bans as “a tragic game of whack-a-mole”.
It pointed to a study which said: “Our results suggest that these laws increased youth smoking participation…taken together, our findings suggest a possible unintended effect of e-cigarette MLSA laws – rising cigarette use in the short term while youth are restricted from purchasing e-cigarettes.”
Also, many have said that the anti-vaping advertising being used in the USA borders on glamorising the use of electronic cigarettes.
How does this differ from the United Kingdom?
Public Health England, in last year’s e-cig review, said: “Our latest report found no evidence to support the concern that e-cigarettes are increasing youth smoking. UK surveys show that young people are experimenting with e-cigarettes, but regular use is rare and confined almost entirely to those who already smoke. Meanwhile, smoking rates among young people in the UK continue to decline.
“Concerns that e-cigarettes might be ‘renormalising smoking’ were addressed in a 2019 study. PHE continues to monitor the trends in vaping and smoking among young people. We have recently commissioned research on the role of flavourings in youth vaping and in adult switching.”
But that was last year, could the situation have changed?
Action on Smoking and Health conduct an annual review in conjunction with Cancer Research UK. This year they found:
- 83% of 11–18-year-olds have never tried or are unaware of e-cigarettes
- “Only 1.8% of young people used e-cigarettes more than once a week”
- “Current use of e-cigarettes among 11–18-year-olds is higher among current smokers than former smokers, and it is very low in never smokers”
- “Young people vape mainly just to give it a try not because they think it looks cool”
The report concluded: “While some young people, particularly those who have tried smoking, experiment with e-cigarettes, regular use remains low”.