Americans are increasingly turning to electronic cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, according to federal data showing former smokers made up 34 percent of all vapers in 2016.
A paper released Thursday by the free-market think tank R Street Institute reveals the overall vaping population in the U.S. declined for the second straight year in 2016, while the share of the population who are former smokers increased. The data, taken from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s annual National Health Interview Survey, is bolstering arguments that vaping devices are primarily used by tobacco users looking to improve their health.
There are currently 7.8 million active vapers in the U.S., down from 8.91 million in 2014. The number of former smokers who use an e-cigarette rose from 2.49 million to 2.62 million Americans, which accounts for 34 percent of the current vaping population.
“87 percent of former smokers currently using e-cigarettes quit in the last five years, suggesting that e-cigarettes played a significant role,” Brad Rodu, an associate fellow with the R Street Institute, said in the paper. “Health advocates should applaud these former smokers’ choice of e-cigarettes over far more dangerous cigarettes.”
A growing body of medical evidence demonstrates that vaping is a much safer alternative to smoking. A University of California study released July 26 showed a record number of Americans are ditching cigarettes with the aid of vaping devices. The rate of Americans quitting smoking jumped from 4.5 percent between 2010 and 2011 to 5.6 percent between 2014 and 2015.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently acknowledged the utility of e-cigarettes for quitting and is now encouraging the development of alternative smoking technologies.
Despite the positive data, localities across the country continue to try and restrict the products, relying on dated statistics or predetermined narratives about their alleged dangers. Researchers focused on harm reduction say efforts to misrepresent the health impacts of vaping risks undoing the progress made on improving public health and reducing the smoking rate.
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