While a great benefit to adult smokers, nicotine use by youth must be discouraged. Earlier this year, the Iowa Legislature passed a bipartisan bill to ban the sale of “vapor products” and “alternative nicotine products” to minors.
In recognition of the fact that vapor products are tobacco-free and can even be nicotine-free, the Legislature did not define them as “tobacco products.”E-cigarette experimentation among youth has increased, but there is no evidence that youth non-smokers are becoming habitual users or, much worse, becoming cigarette smokers.
The CDC’s most recent National Youth Tobacco Survey found that high school cigarette smokers were 21 times more likely than non-smokers to have used an e-cigarette in the prior 30 days 15.7 percent vs. 0.7 percent.
Meanwhile, the nationwide Monitoring the Future study has found that youth smoking and smoking initiation has declined every year over the past 3 years.
Opponents of e-cigarettes often accuse the industry of marketing to children because of the availability of flavors. Two surveys of thousands of adult e-cigarette users, the vast majority of whom were ex-smokers, have been released in the past year that discussed flavor choice. Both surveys found that fruit flavors were the most popular.
The most recent study demonstrated that approximately two-thirds of the respondents were primarily using a flavor that was neither tobacco nor menthol. Clearly, just as there is an adult market for flavored vodka and schnapps, there is also an adult market for flavored e-cigarettes.
The time is now for public health advocates to begin informing smokers that e-cigarettes are a smarter alternative to smoking that can help them quit.• Gregory Conley is a Research Fellow with the Heartland Institute. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org.