News media and policy makers have zeroed in on rising teen e-cigarette use, but they have tended to ignore its actual scale. And it’s not big, according to a new study that found that most teens in 2018 had not vaped in the past month, and the majority of vaping youth don’t do so regularly.
Researchers from New York University found that 86 percent of youth surveyed by the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey had not vaped in the past 30 days, and the majority of the 13 percent that did had only vaped five days or less that month. The study, published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research on January 13, also observed a decline in combustible tobacco use as vaping increased between 2013 and 2018, a trend that suggests that “vaping is helping displace youth use of much more deadly smoking—a net harm reduction benefit to the population as a whole,” said study co-author David Abrams, an NYU professor, in a press release.
“Our findings underscore the importance of examining the full context of how youth are using vaping and tobacco products,” said lead author Allison Glasser, an NYU assistant research scientist. “The key to protecting youth in the United States is determining the patterns of frequency of use and co-use of vaping and tobacco products, which will give public health decision makers the best possible information to protect the public’s health.”
“Reacting too quickly to reports of youth vaping without considering the full context could do more harm than good,” agreed Abrams. Such hasty interventions, like banning flavors or vapes all together, would risk users’ access to a significantly less harmful tobacco alternative and create conditions for an illicit market.
Photograph of four teenagers by Devin Avery via Unsplash