New State Study Shows Dramatic Reduction in Youth Smoking Despite Sharp Rise in E-Cigarette Use

From Michael Siegel

New data out of Minnesota shows that despite a marked increase in e-cigarette use among Minnesota teenagers, there was a corresponding dramatic decline in tobacco cigarette smoking.

According to the report: « The 2014 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that the percent of high school students who smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days dropped from 18.1 percent in 2011 to 10.6 percent in 2014. »

At the same time: « 12.9 percent of high school students used or tried an electronic cigarette in the past 30 days. The survey found that 28 percent of high school students reported ever having tried an e-cigarette. »

The Rest of the Story

These findings add further evidence that electronic cigarettes are not currently serving as any kind of major gateway to cigarette smoking. Despite massive levels of experimentation with electronic cigarettes, youth smoking rates are falling dramatically. This pretty much rules out the hypothesis that e-cigarettes are a major gateway to smoking.

Stan Glantz has reviewed additional evidence which documents rather dramatic increases in electronic cigarette use in the past few years, some of which is occurring among nonsmokers. However, these data actually add to the evidence that e-cigarettes are not a major gateway to smoking because they demonstrate that this experimentation, even among nonsmokers, is occurring at a time when smoking rates among youth have fallen to historic low levels.

Bottom line: There is no evidence at the current time that electronic cigarettes are serving as a gateway to smoking among youth.

Unfortunately, the lack of evidence did not stop the CDC director from proclaiming publicly that e-cigarettes are a gateway to youth smoking. And sadly, I am not aware that the director has made any sort of retraction, correction, or apology.

Meanwhile, the bogus conclusion that youth electronic cigarette use is a major risk for increased youth smoking continues to deceive policy makers throughout the country and risks the formation of inappropriate and unsupported state and federal policies regarding electronic cigarettes.

Despite all the attention to the hypothetical risks of electronic cigarettes, which so far have not been shown to pose any substantial risk to young people, the policy makers remain silent about menthol cigarettes, which – according to the Minnesota report – are currentlysmoked by 44% of youth. This is not a hypothetical risk. This is not a slight chance of progression to smoking. These are kids who are already smoking and most likely already addicted to smoking. And half of these kids who continue to smoke over a lifetime will die prematurely of this addiction.

But nobody in the anti-smoking movement seems to care. It appears that we just can’t stand hypothetical or unknown risks. But known epidemics of disease and death are just fine.

Disclosure: I have not received any funding or compensation from the tobacco, electronic cigarette, or pharmaceutical industries. However, I am seeking funding from several electronic cigarette companies to conduct a behavioral study on the effects of electronic cigarettes on smoking behavior.

About the survey here :

Cigarette use among high school students drops to 10.6 percent

Minnesota’s first e-cigarette survey finds 12.9 percent used or tried e-cigs during the past month

The 2014 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey found that the percent of high school students who smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days dropped from 18.1 percent in 2011 to 10.6 percent in 2014.

This decline in cigarette smoking, the steepest ever recorded by the Minnesota youth survey, follows extensive efforts to curb cigarette smoking including a 2013 tobacco tax, bans on indoor smoking, and tighter restrictions on youth access to tobacco products. Minnesota also saw declines between 2011 and 2014 in the use of chewing tobacco and cigars, according to the survey.

However, for the first time, the survey also asked about e-cigarette use and found that 12.9 percent of high school students used or tried an electronic cigarette in the past 30 days. The survey found that 28 percent of high school students reported ever having tried an e-cigarette.

« These new findings indicate that our statewide efforts to reduce and prevent conventional tobacco use among Minnesota children are working, » said Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. « At the same time, we are seeing a wild-west approach toward e-cigarettes, which allows tobacco companies unlimited marketing access to young men and women. This has led to increasing numbers of Minnesota high school and middle school students using e-cigarettes. »

Many young people are being exposed to nicotine, which is highly addictive, through e-cigarettes. An estimated 85,900 Minnesota public school students in grades 6-12 have tried e-cigarettes, and 38,400 reported using them in the past 30 days. Nicotine is known to harm adolescent brain development. Nearly one-fourth of high school students who have tried an e-cigarette have never tried another tobacco product.

Minnesota high school students are exposed to a wide range of e-cigarette marketing tactics previously used to sell cigarettes. More than half of high school students, 57 percent, saw e-cigarette ads on TV in the past 30 days. About half, 48 percent, saw ads in convenience stores. Students also saw e-cigarettes in ads on the Internet, magazines and billboards, and in the hands of actors in movies or on TV. Retailers have also started selling candy flavored e-cigarette products.

« I have a sense of déjà vu about e-cigarettes, » Ehlinger said. « Tobacco companies are using old and well-tested marketing techniques to introduce children to a new product that delivers nicotine and potentially leads to the burden of addiction. We need to take a hard look at what actions we can take at local and state levels to stop this trend, » Ehlinger said.

E-cigarettes are having such an impact in high schools that though the percent of high school students using any of the conventional tobacco products in the past 30 days fell from 25.8 percent in 2011 to 19.3 percent in 2014, the overall rate of tobacco use including e-cigarettes stayed about the same at 24.2 percent.

E-cigarettes are often cheap to buy, can be purchased on the Internet, and are available in an array of fruit and candy flavors. E-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA and the overall health risks are unknown. The 2014 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey included many questions about new products, especially electronic cigarettes, as well as traditional conventional tobacco products. Public schools and classrooms across the state were selected at random and invited to participate. Overall, 4,243 students in grades 6 through 12 took the survey.

Minnesota youth also continued to use menthol cigarettes. Menthol masks the harshness and irritation that new smokers may feel. Nearly half of high school smokers (44.3 percent) usually smoke menthols. In contrast, only 22.0 percent of Minnesota adult smokers usually smoke menthols.

For more information on e-cigarettes, visit