Vaping Among Teens Skyrockets in 2014

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Is this chart on the right, from the Washington Post, good news or bad? On the one hand, teen cigarette use has plummeted from 16 percent to 9 percent over the past four years. On the other hand, the total rate of teen smoking—cigarettes plus e-cigarettes—has risen from 17 percent to 22 percent. The rise in e-cigarette use spiked especially sharply in 2014, more than tripling in a single year.

I’ve heard pros and cons about e-cigarettes for the past couple of years, and I can’t say I have a settled opinion about them. Taken in isolation, it’s safe to say that no kind of nicotine delivery system is good for you. But traditional cigarettes are certainly more harmful than e-cigarettes, so to the extent that vaping replaces tobacco smoking, it’s a net positive.

But that huge spike in 2014 is cause for concern. At some point, teen vaping starts to look like a serious net negative even if it’s accompanied by a small drop in traditional cigarette consumption. I’m still not sure what to think about this, but I’d say these latest figures from the CDC move my priors a bit in the direction of stronger regulation of e-cigarattes.

And if you don’t live in California and are wondering what the fuss is over my state’s anti-vaping campaign, here’s the ad that’s been assaulting my TV for the past couple of months. It’s paid for by revenue from good ol’ Proposition 99, I assume.

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