So not long ago, when my daily google news search for Norwegian articles about vaping returned an article in a local newspaper from up north titled "Smoking is out, but e-cigarettes are in" I thought... not again. And in a way, I was right. The article featured a doctor claiming e-cigarettes are just as dangerous as cigarettes and he is very concerned that the kids believe otherwise. Luckily the comments section below was filled with facts and quite a few calls for this guy to get another job. This is all the same crap that we've seen a million times by now so I'm not even going to bother to point out how completely incompetent and misinformed this guy is and why. Well on second thought, I can't help it... I mean the guy actually proclaims this: "... but it's still tobacco... ". Seriously... you call yourself a doctor?
What caught my interest in this article was what the interviewed students said about smoking... and e-cigarettes. First of all they say that there is virtually no social pressure to start smoking, it's just not cool any more. They're also very clear about that it is indeed not very good for you. And then:
"There are some who have started using them [e-cigarettes that is], especially e-cigarettes with strawberry flavour. They say that they taste so good. But why can't they just eat strawberries?", asks a couple of the girls.Hmm... maybe e-cigarettes are a bit cooler than eating strawberries? Kids at this age do a lot of stuff to be cool! It has always been that way, and it will always be that way... period! Think about this... could it be that e-cigarettes have taken over the traditional cigarettes coolness? So the kids who would have started smoking are now trying e-cigs instead? That doesn't sound so bad does it? Then there is this:
"It's mostly in 8th grade [that would be 12-13 year olds] that they use e-cigarettes. It was popular in 9th grade earlier", the students explain.Then they get this question: What about 10th grade?
"They're done with e-cigarettes."Oh... so they moved on to smoking then? It sure doesn't look that way when you look at the numbers: 100% of the boys claim to NOT smoke, as do 97% of the girls. So it looks like they've just stopped using e-cigarettes without moving on to smoking then? That is some gateway effect you have there. Whether or not these kids are using nicotine in their e-cigs the article says nothing about, but honestly I don't think that matters as not even Norway biggest Stanton Glantz fans managed to come up with a single strand of evidence that nicotine is addictive when tobacco is not present.
After reading this article I came to think about my own kids, who are now about to finish 10th grade. When I had just switched to vaping they were in 8th grade (well not long after at least) and I remember them telling me about kids in their class who had tried them... even used e-cigs quite often. So I asked them now if they knew of anyone who use them. "Nah... think they stopped". And do they smoke instead? "Nah... not many of the students smoke. It's not cool".
This all fits very well into all the statistics now showing us that e-cigarettes use among young people are increasing, but at the same time smoking onset rates are falling faster than ever. And when the kids are done experimenting with e-cigarettes, what do they do? Well it seems like they just stop. I've said it before and I don't really see any reason not to say it again: Vaping is not a gateway to smoking, if anything it is a firewall that saves kids from smoking. We've also seen how age restrictions on e-cigarettes actually drive teens to cigarette smoking, something that also fits quite well into the story these kids in the north of Norway tell us.
There is a lot of twisting and turning numbers going on in an effort to make us all believe that vaping will turn our kids into lifelong cigarette smokers. Meanwhile... in the REAL world, the kids themselves tell us another story, and it is a story that fits the numbers very well without bending them to fit reality. The discussion whether vaping leads to smoking should have been dead long time ago. Instead we should focus our attention to the somewhat unpleasant discussion on how age restrictions on vaping really affects smoking and vaping rates among teens. As you can read about in the link above we have seen numbers indicating that having the same age restrictions on e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes actually leads to more teens picking up smoking. Is this what we wanted?
photo credit: E-Cig + E-Scooter (Vaping on a Hoover Board) via photopin (license)