I think it’s fair to say that vaping gets a bit of rollercoaster ride when it comes to media coverage. We do see positive stories about e-cigarettes published, especially when Public Health England or Cancer Research UK release a new study.
However, the media are also more than happy to jump on any negative news with a sensational headline and scaremongering article. This is perhaps never more true than when the story relates to teenagers and e-cigarettes.
Just a handful of headlines related to teenage vaping from Jan – Apr 2019 are shown below.
- What's leading more teens to try vaping? Study finds 'alarming' rise
- Vaping by young people remains a burning issue among health experts
- Number of children vaping doubles in five years, new research shows
- GENERATION VAPE Number of under-18s using e-cigarettes DOUBLES in four years, figures show
- VAPE NO WAY Vaping ‘epidemic’ putting teenage girls at risk of breast cancer, leading doc warns
- Generation Addict: Warning kids becoming HOOKED on nicotine as e-cig use explodes
- Health officials turning a blind eye to teenage vaping, experts claim
If you’re a parent reading these headlines, you’re likely to panic and to be honest, based on the above, it sounds like a fair reaction.
But does the data on teenage vaping back up the headlines or can you remove your figure from the panic button and relax a little?
Teenage Vaping – What The Data Tells Us
In reality, teenagers are far more likely to take illegal drugs or drink alcohol than they are to vape. In the UK, approximately 38% of 11-15-year-olds have tried alcohol, 24% of 11-15-years-olds have tried illegal drugs, and 12% of 11-18-year-olds have tried vaping.
Now you may still think that 12% is a big number, after all, it’s more than 1 in every 10 teenagers. However, trying vaping is one thing, but sticking with it is very different. Only 2% of teenagers vape at least once per week and these are almost entirely existing smokers. In fact, only 0.2% of teenage non-smokers use e-cigarettes on a weekly basis.
Vaping is a Gateway to Smoking?
One of the commonly used lines by anti-vaping groups and the media is that teenagers who vape are more likely to take up smoking. They argue that vaping is a gateway to smoking.
As vaping has grown in popularity, we have seen a trend for smoking rates to come down across all ages groups. From a teenager perspective smoking rates have dropped from 5% in 2011 to 3% in 2016.
It’s impossible to attribute the drop in smoking rates specifically to the rise of vaping, but it does indicate that teenagers are not taking up smoking after starting out vaping. In reality, many teenagers, like smokers in the general population, are using e-cigarettes as an aid to help them quit smoking. It could be argued that rather than being a gateway to smoking, vaping is actually helping them quit traditional cigarettes and exit their reliance on Nicotine.
The Health Argument
As well as hyperbole and hysteria regard teenage vaping, the media never miss a chance to print a story proclaiming the health problems that vaping might lead to.
In an ideal world, nobody would smoke, and therefore, there would be no need for e-cigarettes. Vaping originated as an aid to help people quit smoking. It is not 100% free from risk, and if you can successfully quit smoking without vaping, then that is always the best option. However, we know that vaping is at least 95% better for your health than smoking traditional cigarettes.
You can read the UK government and Public Health Englands review of e-cigarettes by clicking on the link below;www.gov.uk/government/publications/e-cigarettes-and-heated-tobacco-products-evidence-review
While teenagers vaping is far from ideal, if the alternative is smoking, then it would seem like a positive choice. If we can stop teenagers smoking early in their life, the benefits to their long-term health could be enormous.
If you have a teenager that does smoke, then encouraging them to move to vaping is a sensible option. Studies have shown that using e-cigarettes as a means to quit smoking is twice as successful as traditional nicotine replacement therapy.
As with any health-related topics, it’s important to look at the facts and ignore the hype. Teenage vaping has had a lot of press coverage as it’s a subject that will interest many people. However, the majority of the headlines are not based on the data we know to be accurate. If you are looking for the facts about vaping, then refer to trusted websites such as Public Health England and Cancer Research.