In my last post I discussed the good news about falling rates of smoking, particularly among teenagers. In the U.S. those rates are now down to single digits. These shrinking levels among young people are especially positive because if a person doesn't smoke before their 20s they are unlikely to ever be a regular smoker.
But something else is happening with the young ones: they are vaping in rapidly increasing numbers. Depending on how you look at kids and their taking to e-cigarettes, two very different views emerge.
The first is feeling alarmed. Kids are staying away from one deadly habit only to be ensnared by another. Vaping may not be as poisonous as conventional smoking (because no tar is delivered to the lungs) but there are still lots of (known and unknown) dangers. Vaping is a gateway: once people start it's only a matter of time before they want the "real" thing. And e-cigarettes also do not work the other way: they don't help individuals quit conventional ones.
The second is feeling (somewhat) reassured. Sure we don't want people vaping; the health impacts are not clearly established. But conventional cigarettes are so toxic that almost anything that keeps someone from smoking is a godsend. What's more the falling rates of cigarette consumption in the face of an uptick in vaping demonstrates that e-cigarettes are not a gateway to conventional smoking. The opposite is the case: they attract kids away from starting that toxic habit. They may also help individuals, already smoking, to stop.
Which view is right?