EDITORIAL: Rising teen e-cigarette use hardly a calamity

The noise from those who lobby against electronic cigarettes got a little louder last week. As reported by Lauran Neergaard of The Associated Press, use of e-cigarettes by teenagers is on the rise, according to a survey released by the National Institutes of Health.

“I worry that the tremendous progress that we’ve made over the last almost two decades in smoking could be reversed on us by the introduction of e-cigarettes,” said University of Michigan professor Lloyd Johnston, who headed up the survey of 41,000 students.

But cigarette smoking and e-cigarette “vaping” aren’t the same thing. The survey actually has far more good news than bad, with e-cigarettes surpassing traditional smoking in popularity among teens. Ms. Neergaard notes that tobacco smoking by teens has dropped to all-time lows. Nearly 9 percent of eighth-graders said they’d used an e-cigarette in the previous month, but just 4 percent had smoked a traditional cigarette.

Ms. Neergaard added that use increased with age: 16 percent of 10th-graders had tried an e-cigarette in the past month, as had 17 percent of high school seniors. On the flip side, tobacco cigarette use was down to 7 percent of 10th-graders and 14 percent of 12th-graders.

Richard Miech, another Michigan professor, said, “They must think that e-cigarettes are fundamentally different.”

Bingo, professor. Come collect your prize. If some teens are going to smoke (and they are), then having them vape an e-cigarette — which provides a dose of nicotine without secondhand smoke — is far better than them smoking a cigarette loaded with tar.

Ms. Neergaard also reported that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 states have seen the light on this issue, permitting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. But you can’t have good news without some heavy-handed plea for government intervention. The Food and Drug Administration has been pushing to regulate e-cigarettes in the same fashion as tobacco products. Regulations would not only ban sales to minors, but worse yet, levy the same incredibly punitive taxes on the far-less-harmful product.

As Jazz Shaw of the blog HotAir.com pointed out, “This seems self-defeating by definition, unless all you’re actually interested in is socking away more tax dollars in the state coffers.” More than likely, that’s what this push is all about — government at all levels looking to fire up another revenue stream.

Obviously, kids 17 and younger shouldn’t use tobacco or nicotine products. But they do.

Cigarette use by teens is down, and e-cigarettes probably have something to do with that. This is a good thing.

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