E-cigarette use is up among teens – and that’s not a bad thing
Here’s something that shouldn’t come as a surprise: Many teenagers smoke. But here’s something you may not know: Today’s teens prefer e-cigarettes to traditional forms of tobacco, according to a new study from the University of Michigan.
This is the first time the university’s Monitoring the Future survey has included figures based on e-cigarettes in its 40-year history. Overall, it finds that 8.7 per cent of U.S. eighth graders (ages 14 and 15) use e-cigarettes, while 16.2 per cent of students in tenth grade (ages 16 and 17) and 17.1 per cent of 12th graders (ages 18 and 19) vape.
These numbers might seem high, but consider the fact that over the past five years, cigarettes consumption by these same age groups has declined dramatically. According to the report, daily cigarette smoking among eighth graders dropped from 2.7 per cent to 1.4 per cent since 2009, and decreased 3.1 per cent and 4.5 per cent for tenth and 12th graders, respectively.
What teens know about eliquids
Some of the researchers expressed concerns that e-cigarettes may encourage teens who have never smoked to start using tobacco products. But the survey also makes it clear that young people understand the great risks associated with smoking traditional cigarettes; according to the study, 62 per cent of eighth graders believed smoking one or more pack of tobacco cigarettes a day carries “a great risk of people harming themselves”. When asked whether smoking e-cigarettes were harmful, only 15 per cent of 8th graders thought they posed a “great risk”.
Teenagers may not be far off in this assessment. A survey conducted earlier this month by Penn State College of Medicine declared e-cigarettes, often filled with flavoured e-liquid, less addictive than regular cigs. Researchers at the university surveyed more than 3,500 users of e-cigs who had once smoked cigarettes, comparing their experiences with the two products.
“We don’t have long-term health data of e-cig use yet,” says John Foulds, the professor who led the Penn State study, “but any common sense analysis says that e-cigs are much less toxic. And our paper shows that they appear to be much less addictive, as well. So in both measures they seem to have advantages when you’re concerned about health.”
What is the real risk?
The focus should lie not on the number of teenagers who smoke, but rather, the likelihood teenagers have of developing a lifelong addiction. If e-cigarettes and e-liquid products are truly less addictive than their traditional counterparts, then the fact that teens are vaping in lieu of puffing may be a positive sign after all.
If you want to know more about the difference between e-cigarettes and traditional cigs, check out our handy infographic.