In 2011, 15.5% of sixth-form students smoked – this has plummeted to a record low of 8% in this year’s figures, and is a success worth celebrating. Curiously, despite being heralded as a gateway into smoking (which it clearly isn’t if the data is to be believed), vaping has also declined in the same survey. Teen vaping is down from 16% to 11.3%. Again, the caveat for these figures is that they record ‘ever used’ over a thirty-day period; they do not represent full-time smoking or vaping.
New FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb welcomed the results by saying: “While the latest numbers are encouraging, it is critical that we work to ensure this downward trend continues over the long term across all tobacco products.” Given that the vaping industry was pinning its hopes on Gottlieb breathing fresh air into vape legislation, his sentiments are odd and slightly ominous.
“Another pillar of our efforts,” he continued, “is to make sure retailers understand and take seriously their responsibility of keeping harmful and addictive tobacco products out of the hands of children. In particular, the FDA has issued more than 4,000 warning letters to brick and mortar and online retailers for selling e-cigarettes, cigars, or hookah tobacco to minors since new youth access restrictions went into effect in August 2016.”
Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, took the announcement as an opportunity to ponder about vaping being a possible gateway to smoking again. Canadian lawyer David Sweanor attacked Myers’ daft position: “The fear-mongering about vaping leading to cigarette smoking lacks any credible evidence. The safer and less expensive products speed the demise of the more hazardous and more costly alternatives.”
The Rstreet blog points out where Gottlieb is going wrong: “Despite substantial evidence in federally sponsored surveys in the United States and abroad showing that remarkable reductions in teen and adult smoking have been concurrent with the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes, the FDA announcement makes no reference to the possibility that much, if not most, of the recent reductions in teen smoking may be attributable to e-cigarettes.”
The problem is rooted in definitions, as highlighted by the coverage given to the survey in CSnews: “E-cigarettes remained the most commonly used tobacco product among youth for the third consecutive year.” For as long as vaping is defined as a tobacco product, despite having no tobacco in it, it will be pilloried.