If you have an internet connection, you’ll have recently read endless hysterical stories about youth vaping. Well, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has just released a brief that looks at the issue and pushes back at a few of the misconceptions and myths that the media have floated.
ASH has released a new brief and survey on youth smoking. It’s intended for public health officials and trading standards officers. However, they also note that it’s a valuable resource for teachers, parents, councillors, and retailers.
The report is packed full of interesting stats. Many of them demolish the persistent negative media narratives we’ve seen lately. Interestingly, ASH themselves have suggested their survey backs up fears about youth vaping; but anyone who reads the report will likely come away with a different conclusion.
Yes, youth vaping has risen from 4% in 2020 to 7% in 2022. While a 3% rise over three years isn’t ideal, it’s a far cry from the public health epidemic or catastrophe that some quarters of the media would have you believe.
One of the most interesting stats suggests that 83.8% of 11 to 17-year-olds have either never tried vaping or never even heard about vaping. And, as we’ve said, only about 7% of that cohort were current users.
Two stats they bring up are that:
While ASH doesn’t explicitly state this finding, this correlation suggests that 2% of the people who would have tried smoking two years ago are instead trying vaping.
While it’s not a perfect scenario, it’s a far healthier alternative. So, the absurd and fragile argument falls apart even further when we look at the “public health epidemic” in that context.
Additionally, ASH has demonstrated that only about 3.3% of teens regularly vape. In terms of their survey, regular is defined as more than once per week. For context, 14% of UK 15-year-olds drink alcohol once a week.
One of the best sections of the Ash report addresses several myths about vaping. Here are some of the standout findings.
#1. Disposable cigarettes don’t contain as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes. Disposables have about 40 mg of nicotine; cigarettes have around 250mg.
#2. There’s no strong evidence that suggests vaping is a gateway to smoking. The paper cites around six reports to support this claim. It dismantles the myth with a simple question: If vaping leads to smoking, why are smoking rates not increasing? Answers on a postcard, please.
#3. UK vaping products don’t include products like vitamin C acetate and diacetyl. As you may remember, this substance was linked to the “popcorn lung” and EVALI outbreaks a few years back.
However, further data showed that it was caused by people vaping marijuana and other products that are not allowed in vapes under current UK regulations.
ASH offers a few key takeaways about youth vaping for caregivers.
#1. Most young vapers either also smoke or have smoked. It’s important that they know which one is less harmful. Currently, 41% of 11 to 17-year-olds believe vaping is more dangerous than smoking, which is partly to do with media misinformation.
#2. The proportion of young people who vape has increased, but media reports that youth vaping risks becoming a potential ‘public health catastrophe’ leading to a ‘generation hooked on nicotine’ are not substantiated by the evidence.
ASH is a generally good source of sensible vaping content. Unlike many publications that write about vaping, they take a data-driven approach to the claims they make.
Youth vaping isn’t something we should support, but the evidence suggests that some of the teens who would try smoking are instead trying a safer alternative.
To me, it seems that a certain proportion of the population is going to consume nicotine no matter what we tell them. Demonising one of the least harmful delivery methods under the guise of stopping a public health catastrophe is perverse and dangerous.
As always, vaping needs your support. So get involved.