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Youth Smoking And Vaping Rates Plummet Despite Alarmism Over ‘Gateway’ Risks

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Smoking rates for adults and teens dropped to record lows last year in North Carolina, as did the rate of youths using electronic cigarettes, despite continued alarmism from public health officials.

The state’s Department of Health and Human Services revealed Wednesday that the smoking rate among the adult population fell to 17.9 percent in 2016. The rate in North Carolina still exceeds the national average of 17.1 percent, but represents progress in the fight against tobacco addiction. Among teens in the state, the smoking rate declined from 9.3 percent to 8 percent between 2015 and 2016, figures that include anyone who smokes at least one cigarette each month, reports the Winston-Salem Journal.

Public health officials at the state and local level across the country continue to spread the debunked narrative that smoking alternatives like vaping, which they claim are increasing in popularity with kids, will serve as a “gateway” to regular tobacco use. Youth vaping in North Carolina, however, plummeted in 2016, along with the smoking rate from 16.8 percent to 11.3 percent.

“There are still large disparities in smoking rates across populations, and half of the people who continue to smoke will die of a smoking-related disease,” Dr. Susan Kansagra, chief of the Chronic Disease and Injury Section in the state Division of Public Health, said in a statement, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. “We need to provide smoking cessation opportunities and support to those who want to quit, especially people in the populations and communities where we find higher smoking rates.”

Even with the gains in reducing tobacco use, roughly 1.41 million of the 7.9 million adults in North Carolina are still regular smokers. Kansagra and other health officials in the state failed to highlight vaping as a way for smokers to reduce harm to themselves and ultimately quit the habit, despite the proven utility of the devices for smoking cessation.

Americans are increasingly turning to electronic cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, according to federal data showing that 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 that the overall vaping population in the U.S. declined for the second straight year in 2016, while the share of the population that are former smokers increased, rising from 2.49 million to 2.62 million Americans in 2016.

A study by researchers from the Georgetown University Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center released Aug. 31 reveals that vapers who use an e-cigarette on a regular basis vastly strengthen their chances of quitting over those who never try the device.

The results showed that smokers increase their chances to quit by 5 percent with each successive day they use a vaping device. The odds of successfully quitting rose by 59 percent for smokers who used an e-cigarette at least five days in a month. Those chances doubled for smokers who used a vaping device at least 20 days in a month.

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