One of the key weapons in the anti-vaping armory has been shot to pieces by new data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
E-cigarettes have been a constant source of controversy among tobacco control activists, with many claiming the industry is using flavors to entice kids to try the nicotine-filled products and get them hooked for life.
Not only would these flavors help to addict minors to e-cigarettes, but some of the more conspiratorially-minded among the anti-vaping lobby say this is merely a stepping stone to get a new generation addicted tobacco cigarettes.
But a new data set from NIDA blows a major hole in this hypothesis. According to NIDA, more than 60 percent of 15-18 year olds vaped just flavorings with zero nicotine last time they used an e-cigarette. Just 20 percent said they used e-cigarettes containing nicotine.
NIDA confirmed a dramatic fall in smoking among 10th graders of 54.9 percent over the past five years. The overall teen smoking rate has been in freefall, dropping to its lowest level in two decades in 2013 at 15.7 percent.
E-cigarette use, however, is on the up, with the number of teenage vapers tripling from 2013 to 2014, reaching 13.4 percent among middle and high school students. In the last month, however, the NIDA data showed a slight fall in e-cigarette use among 10th graders from 16.2 percent to 14 percent.
With e-cigarette and cigarette use moving in opposite directions the claim that vaping is a gateway to smoking is increasingly questionable.
Despite the majority of teen vapers refusing to even dabble in nicotine, the NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow insists flavored e-cigarettes could still prove harmful as a gateway to other substances.
“The flavors are very appealing and that will make the youth much more receptive to use the same device into the future for other things: delivering nicotine or [marijuana] or you can even use them for alcohol,” Volkow told U.S. News & World Report.
But leading e-cigarette advocate and President of the American Vaping Association Gregory Conley was unimpressed by these claims, telling U.S. News public health activists are getting desperate and were scrambling to find a new line of attack against e-cigarettes.
“Nicotine-free vapor products began to be produced approximately seven years ago because consumers were telling companies that they wished to not only stop smoking but also quit nicotine use.”
“Ms. Volkow should stop and think before making false and demeaning claims about thousands of small business owners who have no connections to the tobacco industry. Federally-funded bureaucrats should not be politicizing important public health issues.”