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Media Twists Study To Push False Narrative On Teen Vaping

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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The media is spinning another research study on teen use of vaping devices by ignoring declines in the youth smoking rate.

The research, published Thursday in the British Medical Journal, suggested there may be a relationship between teen use of e-cigarettes and traditional smoking, but cautioned against drawing any firm conclusions from the results. The scientists found that a third of e-cigarette users would go on to try a cigarette within one year, but said no causal relationship could be established, reports WHTC.

Media outlets ignored the researchers and pushed headlines stating vaping is causing more British youth to turn to traditional tobacco products, ignoring trends showing a continued decline in the youth smoking rate. (RELATED: Scientists Criticize Media For Pushing Falsehoods On Vaping)

“It simply shows that some teenagers who try an e-cigarette might go on to try tobacco, and on both occasions it could be just once,” Linda Bauld, a professor of health policy at the University of Stirling, told WHTC. “If e-cigarettes were causing smoking, then the steady decline in youth smoking we’ve seen in national surveys in recent years would be reversed. But it’s not – smoking amongst young people in the UK is at an all-time low.”

The U.K.’s Office of National Statistics shows the smoking rate in the U.K. dropped from 17.2 percent in 2015 to 15.8 percent in 2016. The U.K. now has the second lowest smoking rate in all of Europe, and officials say vaping is a big part of the reason.

Major health groups in England, like the Royal College of Physicians, agree that using e-cigarettes eliminates most of the harms attributed to smoking. They also recommend vaping to patients trying to quit traditional tobacco products.

The U.K.’s Department of Health released a policy paper on e-cigarettes July 18, backing the devices as a useful tool to quit smoking and eliminate second hand risks to the public. The department’s Five Year Tobacco Control plan aims to significantly slash the smoking rate in Britain and argues maximizing public access to vaping will help achieve this goal.

Researchers focused on harm reduction say efforts to misrepresent the health impacts of vaping risks undoing the progress made on improving public health in the U.K.

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Steve Birr