Category Archives: Teen e-cig use

Good news everyone … teen smoking AND vaping both drop

Great news again.

For the first time in five years, not only did teen smoking drop this past year, but the teen vaping rate also dropped … and by quite a bit.

This is according to figures released last week by the Centers for Disease Control.

Teen vaping use had increased dramatically from 2011 to 2015 (from less than 2 percent to 16 percent in just four years). Why? Kids were seeing lots of advertising in teen magazines and on TV making e-cigs look cool and hip … and harmless. In the long run, despite an initial investment, they’re cheaper than cigarettes. And most of all, they used to be really easy to buy — and still are pretty easy to buy online.

From 2015 to 2016, teen vaping actually dropped a bunch, from 16 percent to 11.3 percent. That’s roughly a 30 percent decrease.

Meanwhile, teen smoking dropped to an all-time low of 8 percent (high school students). Man, when I first started this blog over on blogspot 10-12 years ago, the teen smoking rate was still 22.5 percent. It frustrated the crap out of me because year after year, it refused to drop.

Amazingly, 19 years ago, it was over 35 percent! (Thanks, Joe Camel). Now, it’s down to 8. That is roughly a 72 percent decrease in 19 years. And the combined teen smoking/vaping/chewing rate (essentially any tobacco product) is down to 20.2 percent.

Preteen girl tries e-cigarette with her friend

the past couple of years have been frustrating, as well. While it was great to see the the smoking rate among teens dropping dramatically, the teen vaping rate was increasing during that time just as dramatically. What that meant is that roughly the same percentage of kids were still getting addicted to nicotine, but that they had just discovered a new delivery system.

Matt Myers, from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids responds: “This is unimaginable, extraordinary progress. This is a change of a cosmic nature that has the potential to dramatically impact lung cancer, heart disease, asthma and other problems.”

Robin Koval with the Truth Initiative said these latest numbers might be showing that smoking its on its way out for good. Cigarette smoking has really dropped dramatically just in the past five years for a variety of reason — the popularity of vaping, cigarette taxes, the stigma of smoking and smoking bans being the main reasons.

I want to make it clear, I don’t have a problem with adults vaping, especially if it’s helping them quit smoking. I do have a problem with teenagers getting hooked on nicotine to begin with via vaping. And I really have a problem with some of the reckless advertising being done by vaping brands. It’s still nicotine and it’s still one of the most addictive substances on the planet.

Anti-tobacco advocates had a variety of theories behind the dramatic dropoff in teen vaping (one advocate suggested that the experimental allure of e-cigs has worn off). I have a theory that I think more vendors are cracking down on selling vaping products with an ID … and more states are not allowing vaping products to be sold to teens or even to people under 21. This Washington Post article points out that the feds sent out more than 4,000 warning letters to retailers cautioning them against selling e-cigs to minors.

Anyway, it’s looking good for the moment, though the FDA has delayed implementing regulations over e-cigs … and who knows what the Trump administration is going to do on this issue. I have zero trust in them.

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a closer look at teen smoking trends; what a long, frustrating trip it’s been

Teen smoking rate

Yesterday, I posted about a Washington Post article examining the dropping smoking rate in the U.S. since 1970. As part of that article was information about teen smoking. I thought it was worth exploring in a second post.

Cutting the teen smoking rate is critical to stamping out smoking because virtually no one takes up smoking past the age of 21. Most smokers started when they were 16, 15, 14 years old. If a kid can make it to 19 without taking up smoking, he or she will likely never take up smoking.

It’s been a very frustrating battle to cut back on teen smoking, with both Big Tobacco and Hollywood conspiring to fight anti-tobacco efforts. However, the teen smoking rate has absolutely collapsed in the past couple of years; unfortunately, not necessarily for a good reason.

Teen smoking rate2

 

I made a second graph using my Excel skillz showing the teen smoking rate, then added some explanations for what has been going on for the past 25 years.

The teen smoking rate was incredibly high in the 1990s, peaking in 1997. What is considered the biggest culprit for this? Joe Camel. Joe Camel was introduced by RJ Reynolds in 1987 and was a disgustingly brazen attempt by RJR to lure teens into the smoking world with an aggressive campaign showing Joe Camel as cool, suave, sophisticated, hip, etc. Joe Camel was portrayed as an Air Force pilot, a motorcyclist, a James Bond character, etc.

motorcycle

RJ Reynolds never copped to this of course, but internal documents released by the various court cases confirmed it. According to these documents:

  1. A) In 1974, RJR’s Vice-President of Marketing gave a presentation that “young adult market . . . represent[s] tomorrow’s cigarette business. As this 14-24 age group matures, they will account for a key share of the total cigarette volume – for at least the next 25 years.”
  2. B) A 1974 memo by the R. J. Reynolds Research Department points out that capturing the young adult market is vital because “virtually all [smokers] start by the age of 25” and “most smokers begin smoking regularly and select a usual brand at or before the age of 18.

So they were absolutely going after kids. Joe Camel was incredibly successful. The teen smoking rate in 1991 was 27.5 percent and by 1997, it had grown to 36.4 percent (even as the adult smoking rate was plummeting during this time).

Then came along the Master Settlement Agreement in 1998. The MSA is much-maligned for not doing as much as it could have to stamp out smoking, but it did one extremely important thing — it banned Joe Camel. RJ Reynolds and other tobacco companies were no longer allowed to use cartoon characters (Many years ago, Kool used a cartoon penguin to market its brand) in their advertisements. One of the other things the MSA banned was the product placement of tobacco products in Hollywood movies.

wolverinecigar
No more on-screen smoking for you, Wolverine

This had a remarkable effect on reducing teen smoking, as did the billions of MSA funds spent on tobacco education programs in schools. The teen smoking rate dropped down to 21.9 percent by 2003.

Then a very weird thing took place. The teen smoking rate actually went UP in 2005, to 23.0 percent. What happened? One very big thing. States began to figure out they weren’t actually required to spend MSA funds on tobacco education and cessation programs and they started diverting the MSA payouts to their general funds simply balancing their budgets. Funding for anti-tobacco programs dried up. And the teen smoking rate rose. It was an incredibly frustrating period.

The other bizarre thing that happened is that even though placement of tobacco products was specifically banned in Hollywood movies, the rate of smoking scenes in PG-13, PG and even G movies actually went UP … even though Hollywood supposedly wasn’t collecting a nickel from Big Tobacco. They were literally giving Big Tobacco free advertising because Hollywood was stuck in this insane notion that smoking was cool and hip.

When it became apparent that Hollywood studios were part of the problem, a movement began to require an R rating for smoking scenes. Finally in 2008, the MPAA agreed to consider R ratings for smoking scenes. The policy isn’t perfect, but I think it’s actually worked, because movie studios don’t like R ratings and they just don’t want to bother butting heads with the MPAA over these ratings when they plan well ahead of time for movies to be rated PG-13. So, even well-known smoking Marvel characters such as Wolverine and Nick Fury were forced to stop chomping their cigars.

So, that teen smoking rate started dropping — to 18 percent in 2011 and 15.7 percent in 2013. Partly because of the lack of smoking in movies marketed to teens, I believe and partly because of the great work done by the Truth Campaign, a non-governmental, non-profit organization that’s been around since the late 1990s fighting teen smoking with a series of really good anti-smoking ads on TV and YouTube. Truth was originally funded with MSA funds, but that source has dried up and is now funded by donations and savvy investments.

girl e-cigarette
Kids using e-cigs … it makes me crazy.

The recent rapid drop in teen smoking is great, except for one caveat. The biggest reason for the recent collapse in the teen smoking rate (now, down below 10 percent) is the rapid rise in the popularity of e-cigs. The teen use of e-cigs tripled from 2013 to 2014 and in fact now, many more teens vape (13.4 percent in 2014 and I guarantee that number is higher now) than smoke. This is a mixed bag. On the one hand, teens aren’t smoking. But, on the other hand, they are getting addicted to nicotine. No nicotine addiction at all is the ideal. And studies have shown that a higher percentage of kids who vape eventually take up smoking than those who don’t vape. The Food and Drug Administration plans to ban e-cig sales to minors, but they need to crack down on e-cig marketing to teens (e-cig companies are using the EXACT same marketing techniques as Big Tobacco did 20 years ago to appeal to teens) and online sales of e-cig products.

 

Report: Peer pressure helping to drive e-cigarette use among teens

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Teen using e-cig

Arrrgghhh, this makes my head explode.

A University of Southern California study published in Pediatrics states that teens are being encouraged to use e-cigs by the fact that all of their friends are using e-cigs. Banging … my … head … on … my … desk ….

They study, which included a survey of more than 2,000 teens, states that about 40 percent of the kids using e-cigs have never smoked a cigarette.  Moreover, it showed how important peer pressure is for affecting how many kids use e-cigs. More than one-third — 34 percent — of teen e-cig users have other e-cig users at home or among their friends.

From the Good Morning America article:

Adolescents who have three or four of their closest friends who used e-cigarettes were 104 times as likely than those with no friends who currently used e-cigarettes, to be a current e-cigarette user themselves,” says Jessica Barrington-Trimis, research associate at the University of Southern California and the study’s lead author. “So that’s a very strong finding.”

One of the biggest drags about e-cigs (No pun intended) is that it took 20-30 years of work to convince kids that smoking was not “cool” or “hip,” or whatever. And now all that work seems to be becoming undone by kids simply choosing a different nicotine delivery system. Granted, e-cigs may not be quite as bad as cigarettes, but they are still pumping kids full of nicotine, an incredibly addictive and not benign substance.

From the article:

E-cigarettes often contain nicotine, so they may induce sort of a psychological dependency on nicotine and then may lead to future cigarette use,” Barrington-Trimis explained. “Or, e-cigarettes may lead to the normalization of smoking behaviors and that’s the normalization that we’re concerned with.”

“We don’t want to see smoking normalized again,” said Delaware State Representative Debra Heffernan, a prime sponsor of a passed bill that bans smoking e-cigarettes indoors. “You used to never see it and now I’ve seen people smoking them while standing in line at Starbucks or in a store. It’s just scary that it has become so popular so quickly.”