Mar 13, 2014

Kids and E-Cigs: The Debate Rages On

A new study conducted by the University of California San Francisco gives the e-cigarette nay-sayers one more reason to get hysterical.

UCSF researchers examined data from middle and high school students who completed the National Youth Tobacco Survey in 2011 and 2012 and found that kids are experimenting with e-cigarettes as well as with cigarettes. Lo and behold, the same kids who tried e-cigarettes also smoked more cigarettes than non e-cigarette users. (Does any of this strike you as incredibly obvious?)

None of us want our teenagers to start smoking.
But let's look at the big picture for just a second. The survey wasn't designed to derive any insights about the possible motivation or relationship between e-cigarette use and smoking regular cigarettes.

In fact, what the survey data does show us is that cigarette smoking among teens has decreased. And the fact that we now have a better, safer alternative to deadly cigarettes is a positive thing, not a negative.

Remember: the smoking rate has not gone down in years. An estimated 42 million people in the U.S. -- about 20 percent of the population -- still smokes.

For every one of the 480,000 people who die every year from smoking-related diseases, another huge group of teenagers picks up a pack of cigarettes and eventually becomes addicted. In 2012, the American Cancer Society reported that nearly one in four male high school students smoked and nearly one in five female students smoked.

The fact that we now have a better, safer alternative is only a positive thing. The nay-sayers need to view e-cigarettes in light of the fact that it's a much better substitute for smoking, and the vast majority of people transition from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes.

In fact, if kids had actually purchased an e-cigarette with a rechargeable battery (not the disposable kind), my guess is that they wouldn't also be smoking, since vaping is cheaper in the long run. It defies logic that someone would switch to something they know is bad for them and that actually costs more.

Kids will be kids. And they will continue to experiment with whatever is out there. But kids are still able to access tobacco cigarettes, alcohol and whatever they can to be cool and act like adults.

Eventually, I hope that they will see traditional cigarettes as old school, NOT cool, like their mom and dad's big old Chevrolet, 8-track player and polyester suit.

The e-cigarette industry is doing its best to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors. And our industry is the first disruptive product to come down the pike that is helping to reduce the smoking rate. That trend is clearly taking off. Analysts predict that the sale of e-cigarettes will outpace the sale of traditional cigarettes in 10 to 15 years.

And that's a good thing for both kids and adults.

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