These rapid increases in e-cigarette use have stimulated heated public debate over whether these developments should be welcomed or condemned. Since wide use of e-cigarettes is a recent occurrence, we cannot know yet whether long-term e-cigarette use carries any of the adverse health effects of cigarette smoking.
Researchers have established that the vapors inhaled from e-cigarettes do not contain many of the carcinogens produced from burning tobacco and inhaling its smoke. Skeptics of e-cigarettes note that those vapors contain nicotine, which scientists have long established is addictive but not carcinogenic.
Since nicotine addiction is a serious hurdle for most people trying to quit smoking, some public health advocates view the nicotine in e-cigarette vapors as a positive tool to help people quit smoking. In this view, e-cigarettes offer a much less harmful addiction than regular cigarettes for people already addicted to nicotine. In response, some skeptics claim that e-cigarette use, especially by young people, may be a gateway to smoking regular cigarettes.
Based on these analyses, we estimate that pre-existing trends and factors other than e-cigarettes can explain a decline in smoking rates by people ages 18 to 44 from 20.2% in 2014 to 17.9% in 2017.
However, the rate fell from 20.2% to 14.6% in 2017, and the rising use of e-cigarettes can explain the additional 3.3 percentage-point decline in cigarette smoking rates.
- By this account, e-cigarette use is closely linked to a reduction in cigarette smoking from 2014 to 2017 by 922,301 people ages 18 to 24 and 2,922,540 people users ages 25 to 44, or a total of 3,844,840 people.
We also calculated the healthcare savings and costs and the productivity benefits associated with the reductions in cigarette smoking and the increased use of e-cigarettes from 2014 to 2017 by those 3,844,840 people ages 18 to 44.
These calculations are based on healthcare costs, life expectancy, and the differences in the incidence of illnesses that interfere with work for smokers, ex-smokers, nonsmokers and e-cigarette users.
Robert J. Shapiro – PPI – August 1, 2019.