If you live in the US perhaps there is an epidemic, but here in Blighty? No. We don’t have an epidemic of teen vaping. Why such a categorical no for a UK epidemic? Because over here in the UK just 2% of teenagers vape at least once a week.
That’s 2% of Brit teens versus 21% of American teens.
There is no epidemic of UK teens vaping
Let’s holster emotions for a second and instead focus on the facts, not on the sensationalist headlines of newspapers, nor the comments and campaigns of anti-vaping campaigners who are dead set on pushing fake vaping news.
If you’re a parent and you read that a teen vaping epidemic is underway of course you are likely to be drawn in to the hype and believe the natural panic. Because, and let’s face it, we’ve all been teenagers, we’ve all rebelled at some point in our lives, and one of the most popular forms of teenage rebellion is smoking.
But rather than get drawn in and hung up on data that doesn’t apply to British kids, let’s take a look at what vaping is, rather than what vaping is not, so as to not add further fuel to an already ridiculous fire.
Vaping isn’t smoking
Vaping isn’t smoking. It never has been, and it never will be.
If vaping were as dangerous as smoking, why would the NHS recommend it as the best way to quit smoking? Why would UK hospitals install vape shops on their premises? It doesn’t make sense. They wouldn’t, unless vaping really wasn’t harmful to health.
So is there an epidemic of UK teens vaping? No. There isn’t. Kids will be kids, and according to a study by Ash, the number of youths who have used an e-cigarette in the UK is at an all time low. Only 12% of teens under 18 years of age have tried vaping. And the key word here to focus on is ‘tried’.
Because as mentioned above, only 2% of teens vape at least once a week. And out of those 2%, the majority of them are smokers anyway, only 0.2% of teens who vape on a regular basis are non-smokers.
The number of UK teen smokers is falling
To highlight just how different attitudes toward smoking in today’s teens compared to the teens of yesteryear are - the number of teenage smokers continues to fall year on year. In 1974, 40% of teens smoked, in 2014 that number had halved to 20%.
The exact reasons for this are still unclear: it could be social reasons, or greater awareness of the health risks associated with smoking, or the fact that it is so expensive to light up nowadays. The point is, between 2011-2016, the number of child smokers fell from 5% to 3% and that number continues to reduce.
Smoking kills, vaping does not
So what can be done to prevent mass hysteria that still persists around vaping? Because it isn’t just parents that are sucked in by hyperbole. Just look at all the legal restrictions that exist around vaping - vapers are still treated as smokers, when it’s completely different. Smoking kills, vaping does not.
Education for one thing will eventually change attitudes towards vaping. Or how about if you’re a parent concerned about teenage vaping, you try and look at it a different way - teenagers are wont to rebel, that is the very nature of being a teenager. They push boundaries and break rules. But wouldn’t you rather they rebelled through a medium as safe as vaping? As opposed to say, smoking actual cigarettes, or consuming alcohol, or trying drugs? Because the statistics around those practices are more alarming - because this study showed that whilst 4% of all UK teenagers had tried vaping, 21% had consumed alcohol and 9% had experimented with drugs.
Besides, shouldn’t we be congratulating teenagers who have chosen to vape over smoking, rather than setting out to punish them? Because having dug into the details, the number of teens who vape regularly are doing so because they are using vaping as a way to quit smoking. And that should be celebrated.
Is there an epidemic of UK teens vaping?
So is there an epidemic of UK teens vaping? No.
We aren’t saying that teens who vape shouldn’t be a cause for concern, because any child vaping is concerning, but rather than leaping to conclusions, pointing fingers and apportioning blame to the vaping industry for brainwashing children through sweet flavoured e-liquids, we should first realise that teenagers are going to do what teenagers are going to do.
And second, let’s ascertain all the facts before jumping to conclusions, and remember sensational headlines sell newspapers. And finally, it is worth noting (to allay any remaining fears) that the e-cigarette industry is regulated a lot more heavily here in the UK than in the US. That and the nicotine content of UK e-cigarettes is capped at under half the US limit (20mg/ml in the UK compared to 50mg/ml in the US).