New data out of Minnesota shows that despite a marked increase in e-cigarette use among Minnesota teenagers, there was a corresponding dramatic decline in tobacco cigarette smoking.
According to the report: "The 2014 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that the percent of high
school students who smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days dropped from
18.1 percent in 2011 to 10.6 percent in 2014."
At the same time: "12.9 percent of high school students used or tried an electronic
cigarette in the past 30 days. The survey found that 28 percent of high
school students reported ever having tried an e-cigarette."
The Rest of the Story
These findings add further evidence that electronic cigarettes are not currently serving as any kind of major gateway to cigarette smoking. Despite massive levels of experimentation with electronic cigarettes, youth smoking rates are falling dramatically. This pretty much rules out the hypothesis that e-cigarettes are a major gateway to smoking.
Stan Glantz has reviewed additional evidence which documents rather dramatic increases in electronic cigarette use in the past few years, some of which is occurring among nonsmokers. However, these data actually add to the evidence that e-cigarettes are not a major gateway to smoking because they demonstrate that this experimentation, even among nonsmokers, is occurring at a time when smoking rates among youth have fallen to historic low levels.
Bottom line: There is no evidence at the current time that electronic cigarettes are serving as a gateway to smoking among youth.
Unfortunately, the lack of evidence did not stop the CDC director from proclaiming publicly that e-cigarettes are a gateway to youth smoking. And sadly, I am not aware that the director has made any sort of retraction, correction, or apology.
Meanwhile, the bogus conclusion that youth electronic cigarette use is a major risk for increased youth smoking continues to deceive policy makers throughout the country and risks the formation of inappropriate and unsupported state and federal policies regarding electronic cigarettes.
Despite all the attention to the hypothetical risks of electronic cigarettes, which so far have not been shown to pose any substantial risk to young people, the policy makers remain silent about menthol cigarettes, which - according to the Minnesota report - are currently smoked by 44% of youth smokers. This is not a hypothetical risk. This is not a slight chance of progression to smoking. These are kids who are already smoking and most likely already addicted to smoking. And half of these kids who continue to smoke over a lifetime will die prematurely of this addiction.
But nobody in the anti-smoking movement seems to care. It appears that we just can't stand hypothetical or unknown risks. But known epidemics of disease and death are just fine.
Disclosure: I have not received any funding or compensation from
the tobacco, electronic cigarette, or pharmaceutical industries.
However, I am seeking funding from several electronic cigarette
companies to conduct a behavioral study on the effects of electronic
cigarettes on smoking behavior.