Contrary to concerns about a teen vaping “epidemic” and its potential role as a “gateway” to smoking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released preliminary findings that indicate a correlation between increased vaping rates and a record low in smoking rates. The data is based on survey responses from over 27,000 adults in the US.
As of 2022, one in nine adults identified as current smokers, while one in seventeen identified as current vapers. The national smoking rate has been on a steady decline since the mid-1960s when it was at 42%. Last year, it fell to 11%, down from approximately 12.5% in both 2020 and 2021. During the same period, vaping rates rose from 4.5% in 2021 to about 6%.
Among teens, vaping has surged in popularity, contributing to the decline in smoking rates. The CDC reported that in 2021, only 2% of teenagers smoked, while 14% vaped. Some experts have criticized the increase in vaping, neglecting to consider the wealth of scientific evidence suggesting that replacing cigarettes with vapes can significantly improve health outcomes.
According to NASEM, their recent report supports the benefits of vaping over smoking. The 600-page report analyzed the health consequences of e-cigarettes and presented 47 conclusions based on the strength of the evidence. Among the strongest conclusions was the assertion that showed a reduction in exposure of toxins from tobacco in smokers when cigerretes are replaced with vapes.
NASEM’s report reinforces existing research on the relative safety of vaping and aligns with the findings of respected health organizations in the UK, such as Public Health England. Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association (AVA), noted that the report’s main conclusions are consistent with those reached by the Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England.
Conley also pointed out that the report supports FDA Director Scott Gottlieb’s nicotine strategy, which encourages adult smokers to switch to lower-risk products. He stressed the need for strong public health leadership to ensure that adult smokers have access to accurate information about the benefits of transitioning to smoke-free products.
A recent Cochrane review has shown that, other than nicotine replacement therapies, nicotine vapes might be the most productive way to date to promote smoking cessation. These NRTs include patches and gums. Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation showed that while 6 in 100 people quit smoking using NRTs, 8 to 12 quit via e-cigarettes.
In addition to the decline in smoking rates, vaping rates are also decreasing in the US. Arkansas’ YRBS from 2021 showed that while increased teen vaping rates have contributed to a reduction in smoking rates, vaping rates have also been dropping. The Arkansas Division of Elementary & Secondary Education reported that in 2021, 44.6% of Arkansas high school students had ever tried vapes, 19.7% reported past-month use, and only 6% were regular vapers—lower than the figures reported in 2019.
Data from the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey also revealed a decrease in vaping rates among high school students in the state, dropping from 45% in 2019 to 32% in 2021.
With respect to Arkansas, the most notable improvement is in smoking rates. When studied the improvement, it was found that the monthly cigarette usage was only 4.9% out of 25.2% of students. These students admitted to smoking at least once in their lifetime. Surprisingly, only 1% of them were regular smokers. At the same time, others preferred vaping as an alternative to smoking.