Vape Stats 2017-2018
- 38% of high schoolers and 13% of middle schoolers have tried vaping – CDC
- Vape vapor can cause inflammations in the mouth, eventually leading to gum disease
- 39.5% of UK smokers had used vaping to quit tobacco smoking
- The legal age for buying vape pens is 18 in the USA
New data on vaping and the future of the industry
Smoking is the leading cause (other than aging) of death and disease in the United States. Almost half a million Americans per year die from its effects. Many smokers look upon vaping not only as a safer substitute for smoking, but even as a tool to help them quit their more dangerous tobacco addiction. Given that e-cigarettes are also less heavily regulated that tobacco products, it’s not surprising that the industry has grown rapidly since its beginnings. But there’s reason to think this industry will face stricter regulation in the near future.
The popularity of vaping has grown explosively among teenagers over the last five years, even though the legal age for buying vape pens is 18. According to CDC figures, 38% of high schoolers and even 13% of middle schoolers have tried vaping at least once — and there’s reason to think these figures are low, given that they’re based on self-reporting. (Of course, “at least once” doesn’t mean that this many teens vape regularly.) Even though vaping carries considerably less health risk than conventional smoking, it’s likely that the popularity of the practice among the young will lead to calls for tighter regulation in the future.
This is all the more likely in view of recent research on the health risks of vaping. While those risks are not as great as the dangers posed by tobacco cigarettes, they are far from negligible. The inhaled vapor can cause inflammations in the mouth, eventually leading to gum disease. It has been shown to interfere with the process of wound healing, by destroying the mitochondria that provide energy to cells as they divide to close up injuries. Inhaled particles can cause persistent coughing similar to the well-known “smoker’s cough”. The metal coils which heat up the fluid inside e-cigarettes can cause trace chemicals in the liquid to become toxic, even carcinogenic. Such findings, again, seem likely to create political pressure for tighter regulation, especially of the use of “fruity” flavorings which make vaping particularly appealing to teenagers.
How true is it that vaping can wean smokers of conventional cigarettes off of their addiction? This perception took root in the early years after vaping was introduced, when smokers judged it to be a safer substitute for tobacco and there was as yet very little research on its health effects or habit-forming potential. Now that we do have more research available, however, we find that it gives conflicting results. E-cigarettes often contain unpredictable levels of nicotine, which is not only toxic but just as addictive as it is in tobacco cigarettes. One study in the UK showed that 39.5% of smokers had used vaping to quit tobacco smoking, a better result than more conventional anti-smoking strategies can claim. But another study found vaping associated with no change at all in smoking habits, while a third showed that it can actually be a gateway to nicotine addiction for people who had never smoked. At best, the case for e-cigarettes as a cure for smoking is unproven by statistics. In 2016 the European Union introduced new regulations on nicotine levels and child-proofing for e-cigarettes.
In the US at least, it’s not inevitable that government will wage a “war on vaping” with the intensity of the war on smoking. Ideological opponents of “big government” will fervently resist any such efforts, and the nine million adults who vape regularly will, if they feel energized about the issue, form a voting bloc against measures that could seriously damage the industry. But especially as society becomes more aware of the spread of vaping among teenagers, it seems safe to predict that controls will be made stricter.