Media Immediately Spins CDC Data Showing No Vaping Increases Among Teens

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Federal officials are already spinning new data showing no increase in teen vaping in 2017 and continued declines in teen use of combustible cigarettes.

An annual survey released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shattering the narrative that there is a vaping “epidemic” among American teens, however, media outlets and officials from the Food and Drug Administration are telling the public to be skeptical of the statistics, and to continue to push alarmism over youth experimentation of nicotine devices.

The data shows that overall use by high schoolers of any tobacco product, which under their definition includes nicotine-only products like vapes, fell from 24.2 percent to 19.6 percent between 2011 and 2017. Cigarette use among high schoolers dropped from 15.8 percent to 7.6 percent over the same period. (RELATED: FDA Commissioner Warns Vaping Companies To ‘Step Up Soon’ Or Face A Crackdown)

Use of electronic cigarettes by youths rapidly increased between 2011 and 2015 as the products first emerged, rising to as much as 16 percent, but in 2016 the rate fell back down to roughly 11 percent, reducing the number of youth vapers from 3 million to 2.2 million. The new CDC data shows in 2017 the rate of teen vapers held steady at roughly 11 percent.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb responded to the good news by saying, “it’s too soon to tell whether this represents a leveling off,” and warned, “we must do more to address the disturbingly high number of youth who are using e-cigarettes and vaping products.” Meanwhile, media outlets pushed a similar refrain that despite the decline, “experts are skeptical.”

“When the CDC and FDA want to spin a narrative, they know that the establishment media is waiting and willing to repeat their claims without analysis,” Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Rather than celebrating historical declines in youth smoking — decreases that no one predicted ten years ago — the CDC and FDA continue to pretend that there is a crisis that they need to solve. While we would all prefer that no teen ever experiments with tobacco, nicotine, alcohol, or marijuana, we do not live in a perfect world. It is great to see that the denormalization of cigarettes is continuing despite the hysteria surrounding teen experimentation with vaping products.”

Press outlets in the U.S. have long incited panic among readers over electronic cigarettes, however, their attacks against smoking alternatives are becoming increasingly hyperbolic. An avalanche of evidence in both the U.S. and around the world proves that vaping, while not entirely free of risks, drastically cuts the physical harms caused by combustible tobacco and significantly improves health outcomes for smokers.

Tobacco’s impact on health is determined by the delivery method, which is combustion in the case of cigarettes. The vast majority of disease-causing chemicals — up to 95 percent — are only released when burning cigarettes, according to Public Health England, an arm of the U.K.’s Department of Health.

Despite their benefit in helping millions of adult smokers ditch the habit, the FDA appears determined to crack down on vaping products. Gottlieb, speaking at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago Saturday, said he has been “disappointed” with the response from the vaping industry since the agency began seeking public input on nicotine flavors in March.

He said vapor companies “better step up and step up soon.”

Harm-reduction experts say an FDA intervention into flavored products risks upending the vapor industry and hurting smokers who have successfully quit with e-cigarettes.

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