E-cigarettes have a proven track record of harm reduction. The FDA’s restrictions on how they can be marketed make it easier for misinformation and panic to spread.
It’s difficult to say who’s been more addicted to Juul this summer: the teens whose use of the popular e-cigarette has been the subject of countless articles, or the reporters who write them. The sleek device is an easy target for scare stories: It’s colorful, flavorful, and discreet enough to hide from parents and teachers. Health authorities worry that Juul is bringing glamour back to nicotine, as exemplified by extremely 2018 headlines such as “Malia Obama puffing her Juul is summer goals.”
Teenage use of e-cigarettes is a legitimate concern to address, but it’s important not to panic. The media’s alarmism obscures a wealth of good public health news: Smoking rates are lower than they’ve ever been, they’re dropping fastest among young cohorts, and young adults actually have a better understanding of the relative risks of conventional and electronic cigarettes than do their elders.
It’s difficult to have a rational conversation about vaping, especially when teens are involved. But the evidence that e-cigarettes are significantly safer than combustible cigarettes is overwhelming. In the United Kingdom, a comprehensive report by the Royal College of Physicians concluded that long-term vaping is unlikely to exceed 5 percent of the risk of smoking cigarettes. The Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Review Group concurs that “switching to electronic cigarettes is likely to lead to significant improvements in health.”
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