Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Memo to the CDC: Tell the WHOLE Truth About E-Cigarettes

The contrast between the spin put on youth e-cigarette use data last Fall and the story told by the actual data, released last month, is startling but not surprising, given the U.S. government’s over-zealous tobacco prohibition posture.

Last November, the Centers for Disease Control released selective information from the 2013 National Youth Tobacco Survey.  A resulting New York Times headline was typical: “E-Cigarettes Gain Among High School Students” (here).

The CDC withheld the survey data until a couple weeks ago; now the rates of e-cigarette use can be viewed in context with cigarette smoking.  The chart at left shows the real story, and it’s stunning.  Past 30-day cigarette use (the CDC definition of current smoking) among high school students was 9.7%, a whopping 34% decline from 2011. 

E-cigarette use increased, as did dual use, but in no way does the data suggest that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking among teens.  In fact, this chart, along with the Monitoring the Future study I discussed previously (here), indicates that e-cigarettes may be driving teenage smoking down. 

Jacob Sullum at Reason got it right: “Vaping Rises to Record Highs, Smoking Falls to Record Lows, and Activists Insist ‘E-Cigarettes Are a Gateway to Smoking’” (here)   

The CDC regularly misrepresents e-cigarette statistics (here, here, and here).  The agency cherry-picks information from restricted federal datasets; the media amplifies the CDC’s spin; and the story cannot be challenged until months or years later when the agency provides access to the underlying data.  The public should not tolerate such misfeasance from taxpayer-funded public health agencies.

1 comment:

Lisa Bell said...

Excellent! City Councils across the USA, are harping, banning, taxing on the exact opposite tripe, the spinning out of control of Tobacco Zealots, must finally be stumped out