New Study on Teen Smoking Defies Warnings of Harm Reduction Foes

Nicotine molecule (not to scale)A federal study on teen smoking rates shows e-cigarette use among teens has surpassed their use of traditional cigarette smoking, and that the number of teen tobacco smokers continues to fall. This should be good news.

But wait. Nicotine prohibitionists who oppose harm reduction efforts tell us that as more teens try e-cigarettes, many of them will use them as a “gateway” to the traditional, vastly more harmful tobacco kind. 

The lede in the New York Times story about the study explains (emphasis mine), “A new federal survey has found that e-cigarette use among teenagers has surpassed the use of traditional cigarettes as smoking has continued to decline. Health advocates say the trend for e-cigarette use is dangerous because it is making smoking seem normal again. They also worry it could lead to an increase in tobacco smoking, though the new data do not show that.”

And, “E-cigarettes have split the public health world, with some experts arguing that they are the best hope in generations for the 18 percent of Americans who still smoke to quit. Others say that people are using them not to quit but to keep smoking, and that they could become a gateway for young people to take up real cigarettes.But that does not seem to be happening, at least so far.”

O, cursed data! How you confound knee-jerk, unsupported naysayer theories! And those stupid teens! Why are they resisting going through the gateway? Maybe it’s because unlike e-cigarettes:

Cigarettes taste bad
Cigarettes make you cough
Cigarettes make your hair stink
Cigarettes make your clothes stink
Cigarettes make your breath stink 
Cigarettes are way harder to hide from your mom (see stink items)
Cigarettes are heavily taxed, and thus cost more
Cigarettes are known by everyone as a reliable way to destroy your health and give you cancer 

All of these things nudge teens who are going to experiment with nicotine (like, probably all of them) to do so with e-cigarettes rather than regular cigarettes. 

Harm reduction foe: But then, just as with traditional cigarettes, a subset of teens who experiment with e-cigarettes will become hooked on nicotine!

Me: Riiiight, so? 

Harm reduction foe: All addiction is bad-wrong. Say, might you have a cup of coffee by chance? I need a little pick-me-up.

Me: Sure. Here’s a cup. 

For more of this kind of ranting, read my three-part screed, Nicotine Is a Great Fucking Drug: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

NYT: E-Cigarettes Top Smoking Among Youths, Study Says