Public Health Officials Should Embrace E-Cigarettes

Critics warn that young people can be harmed by the e-cigarette craze. And, in fact, experimentation among youth has increased. But there isn’t any evidence that young non-smokers regularly become habitual e-cigarette users nor that they are turning into smokers of cigarettes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s latest National Youth Tobacco Survey, high school students reporting e-cigarette use in the prior 30 days were almost exclusively smokers.  Meanwhile, teen smoking rates hit an all-time record low in 2013, according to the nationwide Monitoring the Future Study. This finding and others have led Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at the University of Boston’s School of Public Health, to conclude that there is no evidence of e-cigarettes acting as a gateway product to traditional cigarettes.

Opponents of e-cigarettes often accuse the industry of trying to attract children by offering flavors. That simply isn’t the case. Two surveys that examined e-cigarette use by thousands of adult e-cigarette users found that the vast majority of them were ex-smokers and that they liked their vapor flavored. Fruit flavors were the most popular. The evidence suggests that alternative flavors actually help smokers break their taste for tobacco or menthol.

E-cigarettes are not a threat to children or adults, though barring minors from vaping is a perfectly reasonable limitation. Smokers should not be prevented or discouraged from using e-cigarettes because of irrational fears. E-cigarettes help people quit cigarettes. That’s the new reality and we should embrace it.

Gregory Conley is the president of the American Vaping Association.