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July 23, 2018

Is the American Vaper an Endangered Species?

Vaping in the United States is declining, and fewer of the people who say they use vapor products are ex-smokers.

If the estimates drawn from data collected in the 2017 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) are correct, the number of vapers fell from 7.80 million in 2016 to 6.88 million last year. That’s more than 900,000 fewer vapers.

According to analysis of the data by Dr. Brad Rodu, the total number of e-cigarette users in the U.S. has now dropped by two million since 2014, which was the first year NHIS asked questions about vaping. Rodu, a University of Louisville professor of medicine, has been studying tobacco use and tobacco harm reduction for two decades.

Interestingly, for the first time, more than a million vapers were never-smokers — and, according to Rodu, two-thirds of that group were 18 to 24-years-olds. Combined with the rapid recent declines in teen smoking, this may indicate that young adults are initiating nicotine use with vapes, rather than even trying cigarettes.

If that’s true, it seems to indicate that the shock-and-awe anti-vaping campaigns led by the California Department of Public Health, for example, could be backfiring. As baby boomers resisted the Reefer Madness lies pushed by drug warriors, millennial youth may be less likely than previous generations to trust similar campaigns aimed at scaring them away from vaping.

In addition to a drop in total vapers, the number of vapers who are former cigarette smokers also declined for the first time. Ex-smokers represent 33 percent of all vapers, down from 34 percent in 2016. That might mean that smokers are using vapor to quit, and then quitting e-cigs too — or it might mean that vapers are going back to cigarettes.

Rodu blames the drop in vapers on the focused efforts by tobacco control and public health groups to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt. “Vaping has been portrayed as a menacing new epidemic by tobacco and nicotine prohibitionists in government and elsewhere,” he writes. “It now appears that the misinformation in their anti-vaping messages has been effective. The number of vapers has tragically declined.”

Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy


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