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Peace and Prosperity

The CDC’s Vaping Spin

Image Vaping360 via Flickr

Jacob Sullum wrote Monday at Reason regarding the United States government’s spin on survey results regarding smoking and vaping by teenagers. Sullum relates that, while the results of the US government’s yearly National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) indicate that from 2011 to 2016 teenagers significantly substituted less-dangerous-to-health vaping for traditional cigarette smoking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests in the June 16 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that the substitution is of no health benefit.

This spin on the data is in line with the CDC’s promoting of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, including of e–cigarettes, in the final paragraph of the CDC report. These regulations, Sullum writes, “threaten to cripple an industry that could help millions of smokers prolong their lives by switching to a far less hazardous source of nicotine.”

The CDC, looking at a rather steady rate of use of e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes combined, glosses over the fact that the numbers are putting together apples and oranges. The CDC thus can conclude rather deceptively that “[c]urrent use of any tobacco product did not change significantly during 2011–2016 among high or middle school students,”

Instead of addressing differences in safety of different activities, the CDC’s report in the first paragraph makes the general assessment that “[a]mong youths, use of tobacco products in any form is unsafe.” Even if this assessment is supportable, it should not be the ending point of consideration if one is seeking to understand health consequences. It is important to consider, beyond whether activities fall into the “safe” category or the “unsafe” category, the comparative degrees of safety of alternative activities, such as vaping and smoking.

The CDC report is another example of why it is important to be skeptical when government agencies proclaim they are seeking to make people healthier, whether by restricting individuals’ activities or by providing health-related information.

Read Sullum’s article here.
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