Parents in the U.S. routinely see terrifying headlines about the “out-of-control” youth “vaping epidemic” and its negative effects. So, is there a youth vaping epidemic in America?
Everyone loves the party game “Two Truths and a Lie.” Can you identify which of the three following statements about e-cigarettes is a lie?
A. E-cigarettes are significantly safer than combustible cigarettes.
B. Youth vaping is on the rise in the U.S., which has led to an increase in youth combustible cigarette consumption.
C. Flavors are useful in helping adults quit combustible cigarettes.
Let’s take these statements one at a time:
A. TRUTH. Electronic cigarettes consist of a battery, which heats a liquid containing usually five ingredients (water, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, nicotine, and flavoring), that produces an aerosolized vapor. Cigarettes, on the other hand, contain nearly 700 ingredients and, when ignited, create over 6,000 toxic chemicals. It is the smoke that is inhaled that causes smoking-related diseases. Sadly, almost half a million Americans die from smoking-related diseases and illnesses alone each year.
Numerous studies on the health effects of e-cigarettes confirm they are a viable, safer substitute for combustible cigarettes. This is why public health agencies in other countries actively promote adult use of e-cigarettes as a tobacco harm reduction product.
B. LIE. The National Youth Tobacco Survey finds that youth vaping has declined precipitously. Youth vaping peaked in 2019 and has steadily declined in the years since. Between 2019 and 2022, vaping among American youth halved from 5.3 million to 2.55 million.
While e-cigarette opponents falsely claim youth e-cigarette use leads to subsequent cigarette use, the CDC acknowledges that young adult smoking rates are at their lowest levels ever. Moreover, the introduction of e-cigarettes to the marketplace correlates with significant declines in young adult smoking.
C. TRUTH. E-cigarettes have helped millions of American adults quit smoking combustible cigarettes, and studies show that flavors play a vital role in helping American adults who are unable or unwilling to quit. One prevalent misperception is that flavors are only meant to attract youth, when, in fact, youth do not cite flavors as the main reason for vaping.
Despite these facts, policymakers and regulators continue to challenge adult access to alternatives to smoking and lie to parents about youth vaping to get them to demand that e-cigarettes and flavored vape liquids be removed from the marketplace.
It’s unfortunate that e-cigarettes and alternatives have been plagued by misinformation. American adults should have the freedom to use e-cigarette products that can help them quit smoking and remain smoke-free. Public health should be promoting the use of tobacco harm reduction products, not stunting adult access to these innovations.
To learn more about e-cigarettes and public health, check out our policy focus: E-cigarettes and Public Health.