Youth Smoking Down: Go E-Cigs!

According to a study released yesterday by the CDC, middle- and high school student smoking rates have continued to decrease. Among high school students, the smoking rate has dropped from 15.8% to 12.7%. This is excellent news. As smoking rates continue to drop among children, we can expect that they will live longer, healthier lives as they grow up.

However, the CDC also reports that the use of electronic cigarettes among high school aged youth has increased from 1.5% to 4.5%. CDC Director Thomas Frieden has stated that “kids are starting out with e-cigarettes and then going on to smoke conventional cigarettes.” This argument is doubtful.

As Michael Siegel has pointed out on his blog post about this news, the CDC “has not identified a single youth who started with electronic cigarettes and then progressed to cigarette smoking.” Why, then, are we getting two stories from the CDC?

Given that knee-jerk reactions to any kind of tobacco use are part-and-parcel of the crusade against electronic cigarettes, it seems as there is no good reason for a science and health organization such as the Center for Disease Control to say that children are being lured to smoking via electronic cigarettes. Here’s why:

Anybody who has tried both traditional and electronic cigarettes know that the sensation of smoking them is nothing alike.

Just because cigarettes are known to be the source of health problems does not mean that electronic cigarettes are, too.

The center for disease control’s mandate is not the reduction of smoking – that would more properly fall under the domain of the FDA or the ATF.

So, the deal here seems to be that the CDC, or at least its director, wants to be visibly seen to be standing on what he wrongly perceives to the the “right” side of the public debate about e-cigs – the side that stands against them. Shame on you, Mr. Frieden, for working to prevent people from quitting smoking. Public health is about saving lives, not about political theater.

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