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Federal Officials, Please Pay Attention to Federal Surveys: E-Cigarettes Are Not Gateway Products



I noted in 2013 that the CDC director’s claim – that “many kids are starting out with e-cigarettes and then going on to smoke conventional cigarettes” – was pure gateway speculation (here).  Youth surveys had just started collecting information that teens were using e-cigarettes, but there was zero evidence that they were “going on to smoke.”

In January I presented data from the CDC’s National Youth Tobacco Survey showing that e-cigarette experimentation since 2011 did not produce an epidemic of teen smoking (here).  The 2017 Monitoring the Future survey, illustrated in the chart at left, provides further evidence of a steady decline in cigarette smoking among high school seniors.  In 2017, the smoking rate in MTF dropped below 10% for the first time in history.  At 9.7%, the rate is almost half that of 2011 (18.7%), while the vaping rate remained at 16-17%.  Meanwhile, high school seniors used alcohol and marijuana at far higher rates than cigarettes (33% and 23% respectively).  Nineteen percent of seniors reported being drunk in the past month.

MTF vaping data in 2014-2016 didn’t specify the liquids used; in 2017 MTF collected information on non-specific vaping and vaping nicotine and marijuana in the past month.  Nonspecific vaping, illustrated by the green line in the chart, was around 16%, nicotine vaping was 11%, and marijuana vaping was 4.9% in the past month.

Federal officials are still obsessed with the vape-to-smoke gateway, despite virtually no evidence.  FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb recently tweeted a warning: “The [e-cigarette] industry isn’t sustainable if it leads to a whole generation of youth initiation on tobacco.” (here

I tweeted a reply urging Dr. Gottlieb to look at his agency’s data from the “…PATH survey of 9,909 never-smoking teens. One year later, 219 (2.2%) had smoked in past 30 days. All awful, but 175 (80%) had no prior tobacco product use; only 11 had used e-cigs. FDA data shows vaping not major gateway to teen smoking [here].” (emphasis added)

Federal officials should stop claiming that vaping is a gateway to smoking, because evidence is absent in all federal surveys.



Original author: Brad Rodu
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