Do e-cigarettes reduce teen smoking?
WASHINGTON >> In almost any other year it would be hailed as a public health victory: The smoking rate among U.S. high schoolers took its biggest hit ever this year, federal figures show, falling to a new low.
Instead the milestone was relegated to a lone figure at the bottom of a government press release and went unremarked by anti-tobacco groups that have spent decades working to stamp out youth smoking.
It’s a new era in the tobacco wars — one in which the alarming rise of underage vaping has almost completely overshadowed a parallel drop in traditional smoking. And the pivotal question of whether electronic cigarettes are inadvertently helping to wipe out smoking among young people has become a polarizing topic: embraced by some experts, dismissed by others.
“Smoking is disappearing among young people and it’s a great public health triumph that we are failing to celebrate, much less even note,” says Kenneth Warner, professor emeritus at the University of Michigan’s school of public health.
E-cigarettes typically heat a solution that contains nicotine, the drug that makes tobacco addictive. They are generally considered less harmful than cancercausing traditional cigarettes. But there is little long-term research on the health effects of vaping.