According to e-cigarette opponents, the advent of e-cigarettes is re-normalizing smoking, reversing the progress that we have seen in reducing smoking rates.
But according to the actual data, smoking is becoming further de-normalized, with adult smoking rates in 2015 plummeting from 17% in 2014 to just over 15%, a much larger decline in smoking than what was observed between 2013 and 2014.
While the potential role of e-cigarettes in the decline in smoking rates is not clear, some believe that at least part of the decline is attributable to the large number of adult smokers who have quit successfully using e-cigarettes.
The Rest of the Story
The drop in smoking prevalence from 2014 to 2015 is the largest year-to-year decline in smoking in the past 18 years. This certainly seems to defy the argument that e-cigarettes are re-normalizing smoking.
As Dr. Brad Rodu reported, 2014 data from the National Health Interview Survey reveal that there were 1.7 million ex-smokers in the U.S. who reported using electronic cigarettes and having quit within the past five years. Thus, it is plausible that for many, or most, of these ex-smokers, electronic cigarettes contributed to their quitting.
As Dr. Rodu suggests: "Cigarette smoking in the U.S. continues an inexorable
decline. Rather than impeding progress,
e-cigarettes may be accelerating a smoke-free revolution."
The major anti-smoking groups, as well as many health agencies, continue to disseminate alarming hypothetical scenarios about how electronic cigarettes are re-normalizing smoking and reversing the tremendous progress we have made in reducing smoking prevalence. The rest of the story is that the actual data show that this is not the case. Instead, it appears that electronic cigarettes are actually contributing to the accelerating de-normalization of smoking. This makes sense, since every electronic cigarette cartridge used by a smoker is about one less pack of cigarettes smoked. Electronic cigarettes are not normalizing smoking. What they are normalizing is trying to quit smoking.