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Shocking New Study Reveals Ecig Bans Only Lead to Higher Smoking Rates Among Minors

Electronic cigarettes are more than just an alternative to cigarettes. In many ways, they have become their own subculture with community meet ups, vape shops, and eliquids in every flavor imaginable. While ecigs seem to be a godsend for frustrated smokers who can’t seem to quit, many are worried that they are also luring children and teens into nicotine addictions that could hinder them for life.

While there is no tobacco in electronic cigarettes, most of them do contain nicotine, a stimulant that could be highly dangerous for children. For an adult smoker, ecigs are a smart switch because they don’t burn and there is no tar involved. By eliminating combustion, it removes the carcinogens that often lead to cancer and lung disease. However, ecigs are certainly not risk-free and because they are still relatively new, there isn’t much information available about their long-term health impacts.

Anti-smoking groups and politicians have been on a crusade in recent months to insure that ecigs are not sold to teens. By banning the sale of these alternative smoking devices to minors, many believe they can protect kids from becoming addicted to nicotine or eventually turning to tobacco in the future.

However, a new study accepted by the Journal of Health Economics is painting a grim picture of the consequences of banning ecigs among youth. Yale University’s Abigail Friedman analyzed the numbers and came up with an unexpected conclusion. “Bans on e-cigarette sales to minors yield a statistically significant 0.9 point increase in the smoking rate among 12 to 17 year olds.” Friedman said that it was enough of an increase to completely destroy all the progress made by other avenues to reduce youth smoking rates.

If banning ecig sales to minors is actually driving kids to use tobacco, then we have a major problem. Yet it’s highly unlikely that states and cities that have already outlawed ecig sales to minors will ever repeal that decision regardless of any research. Who wants to be the first one to give 8-year-olds legal permission to buy and use a device that closely mimics smoking to the casual observer?

Friedman suggested alternative policies that would target the older teens most likely to purchase ecigs in the first place. She said that by allowing 16-year-olds to purchase ecigs but not conventional cigarettes, it could potentially remove the likelihood that these teens would use tobacco products.

Another possibility would be to change the way we present information in anti-smoking education programs. Rather than teaching kids that all nicotine products are equally dangerous, we should be explaining that e-cigarettes still carry risks but they are far less dangerous than traditional cigarettes because they lack tobacco. While no one is suggesting that we give school kids a free pass to use ecigs, it is important to educate them properly. Then those kids who do decide to smoke will opt for the safer alternative with an ecig over a pack of regular cigarettes.

Currently there are very few anti-smoking programs that tell children the differences between ecigs and cigarettes from a health perspective. If teens think both products are equal, they would be likely to choose whatever is easiest to find.

In reality, all the health warnings in the world will never prevent people from staying 100 percent smoke-free. After all, we’ve been telling people that smoking kills for decades and yet a significant percentage of our population is still lighting up. Nicotine-free society is a dream that many people long for, but it’s not a realistic one. With that in mind, wouldn’t it be better to at least give people the option to make an educated choice after they know the differences between vaping and smoking?

Ultimately, this study brings up the need for a new discussion in the anti-smoking community. What is the best approach to keep teens from using tobacco products? If ecig bans are only driving smoking rates up, what should our course of action be for the future?

Electronic Cigarettes • April 5, 2017

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