STROUD: Good News — As Youth Vaping Collapses More Adults Are Using E-Cigs To Quit Smoking


Lindsey Stroud Contributor
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published the long-awaited results for the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS). This annual assessment surveys American middle and high school students on the use of various tobacco and vapor products, from cigars and cigarettes to e-cigarettes and smokeless and other novel tobacco products.

There is phenomenal news – youth vaping is down and youth use of traditional tobacco products is at historic lows. And, the numbers show that adult use of e-cigarettes has increased, meaning that more adults are turning to less harmful tobacco (and non-tobacco) options for their nicotine. 

Yet, even with these welcoming findings, public health agencies in America continue to amplify a fake epidemic of youth tobacco and vapor product use. Continuing to spread alarmism over dwindling youth use ignores the fact that millions of American adults are using e-cigarette products to quit smoking combustible cigarettes. In fact, with the latest NYTS numbers, it’s overwhelmingly apparent adults are the ones using e-cigarette products. 

In 2023, only 7.7 percent of U.S. middle and high school students reported currently using e-cigarettes. Current use is defined as having used the product on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior. This is an 18.1 percent decline from 2022 and a whopping 61.5 percent decrease from 2019, when youth vaping peaked at 20 percent. 

Even better, daily e-cigarette youth use decreased by 8.6 percent since 2022, with just 1.9 percent of U.S. middle and high school students reporting vaping every day in 2023. 

Traditional tobacco use remains at historic lows. In 2023, only 1.6 percent of students reported current cigar use, 1.6 percent reported currently smoking combustible cigarettes, and 1.2 percent were currently using smokeless tobacco products. Since 2020, less than five percent of students report using these products in any given year. Contrary to harm reduction opponents’ claims, youth e-cigarette use has not normalized traditional tobacco use, as evidenced by these dramatic and sustained declines. 

But it is apparent that American adults are vaping. And they are vaping fruity and candy-like flavors in droves, as evidenced by sheer sales numbers as well as adult consumer studies. 

According to a Bloomberg-funded CDC study published in June, monthly e-cigarette sales increased by 46.6 percent between 2020 and 2022. In Jan. 2020, an estimated 15.5 million e-cigarette units were being sold each month. This increased to 22.7 million units for the month of Dec. 2022. During that period, the percentage of youth vaping decreased by 28.2 percent, from 13.1 percent of students using e-cigarettes in 2020 to 9.4 percent in 2022. 

Youth vaping has continued to decline, while the number of adults vaping has increased. In 2022, more than 20 million American adults were currently using e-cigarettes, which was a 14.9 percent increase from 2021.

Yet, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continue to stoke alarmism about a fake youth vaping epidemic and continue to deny the efficacy of flavored e-cigarettes as a tool to help adults quit smoking.

In the accompanying press release for the June 2023 CDC report, the taxpayer-funded agency proposed various strategies to reduce youth “use of tobacco in any form.” These strategies include “comprehensive restrictions on the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes, and flavored cigars, in all jurisdictions.” With age restricted purchases and lower youth numbers, it is clear that there is no need to ban flavors.

In responding to the latest NYTS, the director for the Center for Tobacco Products at FDA acknowledged it was encouraged by the “substantial decline in e-cigarette use” but that they agency cannot “rest [its] laurels” and that there is “more work to be done to build on this progress.” The agency then doubled down, announcing another round of enforcement actions against e-cigarette retailers and remarking that the FDA “will not stand by as bad actors place profit over the health of our nation’s youth.”

Yet, it is the FDA which seems to be placing profits over health with its prohibitionist policy regarding flavored e-cigarette devices and other novel tobacco harm reduction products. The FDA has received tobacco product applications for more than 26 million deemed tobacco products, largely e-cigarette and vapor devices. The agency has claimed to have made determinations on more than 99 percent of those 26 million applications. These have mainly been denials as the agency has only authorized the sale of 23 e-cigarette products – all of which are only available in tobacco flavor.

The percentage of adults using these products has increased amid all the denials. In fact, between 2021 and 2022 the percentage of adults who were vaping every day increased by 12.5 percent, while the adults vaping on some days increased by 20.6 percent during the same period.

And even if the CDC and FDA want to continue to deny the numbers indicating that adults are the ones using flavored vaping devices, numerous studies demonstrate that adults prefer fruity and dessert flavors. In 2020, researchers at Pennsylvania State University determined that adults who were exclusive e-cigarette users reported a greater migration to sweet flavored vapor products. A recent study in Harm Reduction Journal of nearly 70,000 American adult e-cigarette users found that the majority (82.8 percent) reported using fruit flavored e-cigarette products at vaping initiation. The study also found that fruit, dessert or pastry, and sweet flavors “were considered the most helpful for quitting smoking.” In other words, sweet vape flavors are not a nefarious plot to get kids hooked.

It’s long overdue for American public health agencies to recognize the amazing potential that flavored e-cigarette products have in reducing smoking rates. The numbers don’t lie – youth vaping continues to decline; adult vaping is increasing. These youth decreases are happening even as federal regulators play whack-a-mole in trying to stop a growing harm reduction industry which American adults are using to successfully quit smoking.

Lindsey Stroud is Director of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance’s Consumer Center.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.