Smoking among young people in the United States has fallen to its lowest levels on record. At the same time, vejping is increasing. This is according to a new study of young people and tobacco habits in the US.
"The use of e-cigarettes does not seem to lead to more smoking, as we previously feared. Rather, the trend shows the opposite," says the epidemiologist. Rafael Meza to Michigan News.
A research team from the Universities of Michigan and Georgetown has analysed how young people use tobacco in the US. The study comes at a time when more and more young people are using e-cigarettes and previous studies have suggested that vejpning is creating a new generation of smokers.
"However, while we recognise the increasing use of vejp products, interest in the use of cigarettes and other smokeless tobacco products such as snuff, chewing tobacco and cigars by young people has declined. Particularly in the last two years," the researchers write.
Tobacco habits under the age of 30
Therefore, in their report 'Trends in Tobacco Use Among Adolescents by Grade, Sex, and Race, 1991-2019', the US researchers took a closer look at the long-term trends. The study is based on statistics on tobacco use among young people aged 12 to 18 between 1991 and 2019. These are data from millions of American young people who have responded to questionnaires for almost 30 years.
According to the study, tobacco use among young people increased steadily in the 1990s and then declined in the early 2000s. However, these changes were small, ranging from 2 to 8 per cent annually until 2012.
Then something happened.
"Smoking is going away"
Between 2011 and 2019, daily use of cigarettes decreased on average by 17 per cent annually. This was true regardless of gender, age and origin. The daily use of cigarettes in 2019 was two (2) per cent among children aged 12 to 18 years. These are historically low figures, the researchers note.
"Smoking seems to be disappearing among young people. We see it across ages and it seems to be a consistent trend. Young people are not as interested in cigarettes anymore," says Rafael Meza, professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Michigan, who led the comprehensive study.
Politiken has changed its focus
At the same time, interest from politicians, health professionals and tobacco researchers has followed the same trend. Cigarettes are taking less space in the debate, the researchers note.
"From a focus on cigarettes, tobacco and smoking to a greater focus on vejping and e-cigarettes. Tobacco policy has changed," they write in their analysis.
E-cigarettes accelerate the decline
Previous studies have also suggested that the use of e-cigarettes would increase the risk of young people starting to smoke traditional cigarettes. A so-called 'gateway' effect. But the researchers behind the study, published at the end of November, draws a completely different conclusion.
"Although the proportion of young people testing or using e-cigarettes has increased between 2011 and 2019, smoking and smokeless tobacco use has decreased at a much faster rate compared to previous years. This is a clear break in the trend. And the introduction of e-cigarettes seems to have accelerated the decline," the researchers write.
Important for public health
According to the UK Public Health Agency, which has long encouraged smokers to use e-cigarettes to quit smoking, vejping can reduce the harm caused by smoking by 95 per cent.
"It is a concern that e-cigarettes are spreading among young people. And we should address that and reverse that trend as well," said Mr Meza. "But it is also important that the cigarette, which is a bigger concern in terms of harmfulness, is going away. And that it is happening at a faster pace. From a public health perspective, this is worth celebrating."
As vejpkollen previously reported the state of Michigan, where the study was conducted, became the first US state to temporarily ban flavoured e-juices in 2019. Similar bans are also expected in Europe, including in Denmark and The Netherlands.