In a previous post, I noted false and misleading information in a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention press release about e-cigarette use by youth.

The CDC reported that 76.3 percent of youth using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days had also smoked at least once in the same period, and it used that number to suggest that e-cigarettes are a gateway to youth smoking. First, there is no evidence in the dataset to support that claim. Second, the CDC didn’t report survey information on other tobacco products. Only about 10 percent of vapers were not concurrent users of any tobacco product, and only about 5 percent had no past history of smoking.

Here, I’ll present other important facts that the CDC didn’t share about youth vapers who were questioned in the 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

The NYTS is a comprehensive survey of youth tobacco use, attitudes and perceptions; it contains a lot of e-cigarette information that the CDC failed to report. I analyzed a number of questions relative to use of both cigarettes and e-cigarettes, comparing smokers who had also vaped in the past 30 days (smoker-vapers) with those who had not (exclusive smokers). The results, summarized in the table below, illustrate differences (all of which are statistically significant – p< 0.05) between the two groups.

Here are the relevant NYTS questions and answers for smoker-vapers and exclusive smokers:

  • Question 12. About how many cigarettes have you smoked in your entire life? 64 percent of smoker-vapers had consumed over five packs of cigarettes, compared with 39 percent of exclusive smokers.
  • Question 13. During the past 30 days, on how many days did you smoke cigarettes? 51 percent of smoker-vapers reported smoking on 20 days or more, compared with 29 percent of exclusive smokers.
  • Question 14. During the past 30 days, on the days you smoked, how many cigarettes did you smoke per day? 31 percent of smoker-vapers consumed six or more cigarettes, versus 18 percent of exclusive smokers.
  • Question 57. Are you seriously thinking about quitting cigarettes? 41 percent of smoker-vapers said they were not seriously thinking about quitting, compared with 28 percent of exclusive smokers.
  • Question 58. If you decided to quit cigarettes for good, how likely is it that you would succeed? 32 percent of smoker-vapers labeled themselves as somewhat or very unlikely to succeed, compared with only 17 percent of exclusive smokers.

There was another insightful survey item:

  • Question 69. Do you believe that electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes…are (less harmful, equally harmful, or more harmful) than regular cigarettes? 72 percent of smoker-vapers correctly answered that e-cigarettes were less harmful, and 51 percent of exclusive smokers also got it right. These are impressive numbers, given that tobacco opponents uniformly insist that “we don’t yet understand the long-term effects of these novel tobacco products,” as FDA tobacco center chief Mitch Zeller said in the CDC press release.

This post is not a comprehensive analysis of the 2012 NYTS findings on e-cigarettes. My purpose is to report some interesting findings that the CDC failed to mention in their PR campaign to portray e-cigarettes as a teenage scourge.

Federal officials should fully and accurately report the results of taxpayer-funded research. Americans – including teenagers – deserve the truth about e-cigarettes.


Percentage of Smoker-Vapers and Exclusive Smokers With Answers to Selected Questions, NYTS 2012
Question=Answer Smoker-Vapers Exclusive Smokers
Cigarettes smoked, entire life= 5+ packs 69% 39%
Days past month smoked= 20+ 51% 29%
Cigarettes on days smoked= 6+ 31% 18%
Seriously thinking about quitting cigarettes= No 41% 28%
Successful quitting= somewhat or very unlikely 32% 17%
E-cigarettes less harmful than cigarettes 72% 51%