Adolescent Smoking Falls Again, Confounding E-Cigarette Alarmists

Youth smoking continues to decline. Researchers now conclude that vaping is replacing the smoking culture among youth and not leading youth to smoke cigarettes. 

This isn’t good news for the nanny state. 

The latest survey results deal another blow to the hypothesis that vaping leads to smoking.

New survey results deal yet another blow to the hypothesis that vaping leads to smoking, showing that conventional cigarettes are less popular than ever among teenagers despite the recent surge in adolescent experimentation with e-cigarettes. In the Monitoring the Future Study, the percentages of eighth-, 10th-, and 12th-graders who reported smoking cigarettes during the previous month fell again this year, continuing a downward trend that began in the late 1990s.

This survey began asking about e-cigarette use only last year, and the share of teenagers who reported vaping in the previous month actually fell this year, from 8 percent to 6.2 percent among eighth-graders, from 14.2 percent to 11 percent among 10th-graders, and from 16.3 percent to 12.5 percent among 12th-graders. But according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, past-month vaping among high school students rose dramatically between 2011 and 2015—”an astounding 900 percent,” as Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently put it. The latter survey also shows a continuing decline in adolescent smoking, which last year hit a record low. Somehow that trend has not put a damper on warnings from alarmists like Murthy that e-cigarettes might be a gateway to the real thing.

Even Richard Miech, a Monitoring the Future researcher who recently pointed out that most adolescent vapers do not vape nicotine, seems unable to shake this unsupported fear. “Vaping may lead to friendship networks that encourage vapers to smoke,” he says in a press release. “Also, vapers may come to believe the dangers of smoking are exaggerated if they do not experience any immediate health consequences from vaping.” Maybe, but so far there is very little evidence that anything like that is happening.