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Blowing smoke?

Polls on vaping suggest public misinformation

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette While there are countless brands of vape products on the market, popular belief states that available flavors drive youth to use vape products. Research suggests, however, that while more than 80% of youth who reported vaping prefer flavored products, the primary driving force behind them trying vaping are the number of anti-vaping campaigns in their schools.

There are currently eight bills in the Michigan Legislature seeking to further regulate or reduce the use of vaping. Of course, among them is Senate Bill No. 648, which seeks to increase taxes on the sale of “tobacco, other nicotine, and similar products; to regulate and license manufacturers, wholesalers, secondary wholesalers, vending machine operators,” and on and on.

Marc Slis, owner of 906 Vapor, in Houghton, sells vaping products and he has been a longtime advocate for vaping as a successful means of quitting smoking, and he has seen these bills before, with varying language, since they first started making the rounds in 2019.

“We’ve defeated them every session,” Slis said, “or they’ve defeated themselves by being submitted near the end of session and time runs out. These bills are quite a bit different in their language, but I would still characterize them as the same package of bills that have been repeatedly submitted to the Legislature since 2019-2020.”

Part of the drive behind these bills is the media, which seems to be seeking to keep the public confused.

For example, a Nov. 15 report from WILX 10, Lansing is titled “Poll says Michigan voters want to ban flavored vaping products.” The article begins by saying that a new effort is underway to reduce tobacco use among Michigan kids. In a new poll, 67% of people surveyed say they want to ban flavored vaping products. The report fails to distinguish between tobacco and vaping.

Yet, while there is an ongoing argument that youth vaping is driven by the flavors available, there is not much evidence to support the claim.

“No,” he said, “there is no evidence of that whatsoever.”

In fact, he said, what evidence pertaining to youth use there is, comes from two studies, the CDC’s National Youth Tobacco Survey and the Youth Behavioral Risk Survey.

“Between those two, the data show that youth use is not driven by flavors,” Slis said. “Eighty percent of youth report other reasons for vaping.”

“Most common are curiosity, driven by the anti-vaping campaigns they’re inundated with in their schools and in the media,” said Slis.

This was confirmed in the NYTS report, which stated:

The 2021 NYTS stated that among youth who reported engaging in those common activities, 75.7% reported exposure to marketing or advertising for any tobacco product.

Among students who reported using social media, 73.5% had seen e-cigarette-related content.

On the other side of the coin, however, the NYTS for 2023 reported that almost 9 out of 10 current e-cigarette users (89.4%) used flavored e-cigarettes, with fruit flavors being the most popular, followed by candy, desserts or other sweets; mint; and menthol. The report also stated that use of any tobacco product among high school students has dropped from 16.5% in 2022 to 12.6% in 2023. This decline was primarily driven by e-cigarettes (14.1% to 10.0%), which translates to 580,000 fewer high school students who currently used e-cigarettes in 2023.Among high-school students, declines were also observed during 2022-23 for cigars and overall combustible tobacco smoking, representing all-time lows.

The statistics for middle school students were different, however.

Although a decrease in e-cigarette use was observed among high school students, there was an increase in current overall tobacco product use among middle school students (4.5% to 6.6%) and multiple tobacco product use (1.5% to 2.5%), the report states. However, among middle school students overall, no significant change was observed during 2022-23 for any individual tobacco product type, including e-cigarettes.

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