The story of vaping in schools has appeared in a number of places in the past few days. Here’s Jessica Picard reporting in the Valley Breeze:
“Our concern is that we are seeing an increasing trend in vaping. We thought it was important that we share with parents what we are seeing,” said Supt. Robert Mitchell.
Increased use of e-cigarettes is not just in the high school, but in the middle schools as well, said school officials.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, current use of electronic cigarettes increased among middle and high school students from 2011 to 2016. The CDC reported that in 2016, about four out of every 100 middle school students and 11 out of every 100 high school students said they had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.
In isolation, this may indeed be a bad thing, but that’s not how we should look at it. According to the federal Department of Health & Human Services, “from 2011 to 2015, the percentage of 12th-grade students who had ever used an e-cigarette increased from 4.7 to 16 percent.” But over that same period of time, the percentage of seniors who said the same about actual cigarettes decreased from 10.3% to 5.5%. Smokeless tobacco (like snuff and chewing tobacco) is down from 8.3% to 6.1%. (These groups aren’t exclusive, meaning that there’s some overlap between them.)
As of 2014, more students had used an e-cigarette than an actual cigarette. The question that the advocates and (in turn) the journalists miss is this: If the alternative to e-cigarettes is not nothing, but smoking or chewing tobacco, isn’t this outcome positive?
Looking at the trend for teenage smoking, the line is down, down, down since the mid-90s. That’s what one would expect as the rules and social pressure have changed. When I was a high school smoker back then, we were still able to go out to the smoking area behind the library. No doubt as that convenience decreased, fewer kids bothered.
It could be that some percentage of teenagers will simply do something “adult” and addictive like smoking. It’s probably better to allow that to be something like smoking, rather than smoking itself.