A major new survey has found that global rates of adolescent vaping are low despite continuing alarmist scare stories about youth vaping ‘epidemics.’
Researchers from the University of Queensland (Australia) combed through World Health Organization data from more than 150,000 young people in 47 countries.
The WHO research was part of its huge Global Youth Tobacco Survey between 2015 and 2018.
Anti-vaping campaigners regularly use WHO research to oppose adult smokers having access to e-cigarettes, especially flavoured e-liquids, on the grounds that they attract young people.
However, this new study which was published in the scientific journal Addiction, found that while nine percent of adolescents reported vaping in the past 30 days, only 1.7 percent were frequent vapers.
The Australian study team concluded that this suggested that most young people who vaped were experimenting but not forming a vaping habit.
Lead author Dr Gary Chan, from UQ’s National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research, said:
“Our study found the prevalence of vaping in low-and middle-income countries was low.
“One in 12 adolescents reported vaping over a 30-day period, but only one in 60 vaped more than 10 days over the 30-day period.”Dr Gary Chan, National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research
He said a combination of eye-catching packaging and the availability of nicotine-free products could help explain the study findings.
Dr Chan added:
“E-cigarettes are often sold in colourful packages with highly palatable flavours that appeal to adolescents, and this could lead to experimentation but not continued use.
“While some e-cigarettes contain high levels of nicotine, adolescents can also vape non-nicotine or low nicotine e-cigarettes which are less addictive.”Dr Gary Chan, National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research
The Australian team also found that higher tobacco taxes were associated with increased youth vaping rates.
Dr Chan added:
“This could suggest that young people in countries with a higher tobacco tax might be substituting traditional cigarettes with e-cigarettes.”Dr Gary Chan, National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research
He previously recommended that social media platforms should be able to age-restrict content to protect young people.
He was speaking after another University of Queensland study found that TikTok exposed young people to videos that could ‘reinforce a positive attitude towards vaping and e-cigarette usage.’
The academic added:
“Considering how accessible these videos are to young people and previous studies associating exposure to vaping-related content with increased e-cigarette use, age restrictions on social media platforms are recommended.”Dr Gary Chan, National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research