CDC finally tells the truth about teen smoking: still declining, even with e-cigarettes

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TeenSmokingA new report from the CDC contains evidence of the ongoing decline in teen smoking rates. The results of the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey of 13,000 US high school students noted that smoking rates dropped in the group to the lowest level since 1991. Only 15.7 percent of the teenagers said they had tried a cigarette in the month before the survey. The full study is available on the CDC website.

The incredible decline, from 36.4 percent in 1997 to 2013 s 15.7 percent is attributable to many factors: higher prices, mainly due to tax increases (the highest are in NY state and city), stronger smoke-free laws, and smoking prevention and cessation programs. Since cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in our country (and most of the world), reducing smoking rates are, or should be, the #1 public health mission. This report s good news signals definite progress towards that goal.

ACSH s Dr. Gil Ross had this somewhat discordant perspective: We should also note that the teen smoking rates were quite stagnant from 2003 s 22 percent until 2011 s 18 percent: barely a decline at all. Now, all of a sudden, a 2.4 percent fall over 2 years, a decline not seen since 2001-2003. How come? I don t know for certain; clearly it s not due to better FDA-approved cessation drugs, nor to quitlines or the blather put out by advocacy groups like ALF or CTFK, nor by the CDC. I have a suspicion that the increasing use of electronic cigarettes among teens, which has been shown to be mainly among those teens who previously smoked, may be at least part of the explanation.

Ignoring this possibility and indeed ignoring his own data, the CDC s director Tom Frieden had these words of (non) wisdom, according to the Wall St. Journal s Mike Esterl:

Frieden said the agency is particularly worried about e-cigarette ads on TV and elsewhere that could re-glamorize smoking.

More from Ross: Say what? But..but the survey says the opposite: teen smoking down, teen e-cig use up. Never one to adhere to the straits of evidence, Frieden had this comment on the CDC s website: Despite this progress, reducing overall tobacco use remains a significant challenge. For example, other national surveys show increases in...e-cigarette use. There you go again, Tom! Tobacco use and e-cigarette use are just not the same, no matter how often you repeat it. Well, let s focus on the undeniably good news and put aside petty concerns about the CDC director s science fail. For now.