In the U.S., 480,000 people die from cigarette smoking-related illnesses per year. Of those deaths, 41,000 are from secondhand smoke.
Though many continue to die from smoking-related illnesses, smoking rates are on the decline.
“One of the great triumphs in America has been the anti-smoking movement,” said
Tom Kruckemeyer, an economist at the Missouri Budget Project and former Chief Economist for the Missouri Office of Administration/Division of Budget & Planning, wrote a report on tobacco in Missouri titled, “Misery in Missouri: How the Alliance of Big Tobacco and Missouri Politicians Keep Smoking-Induced Deaths at Unacceptable Levels.”
“Back in the 60s, late 50s, probably over half the adult population smoked, it was so common,” Kruckemeyer said.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 42.4% of Americans at or over the age of 18 smoked in 1965.
“Because of the actions of the surgeon general, the reports, the research on it and the work done by federal, state and local governments, smoking rates now are down to under 20 percent in most places,” Kruckemeyer said.
In 2017, less than 15% of Americans smoked, according to the CDC.
However, the decreasing rate of smoking has been met with rising rates of electronic cigarette use.
According to the CDC, youth tobacco use among high school students is on the rise due to the recent popularization of e-cigarettes and vaping products. From 2011 to 2019, e-cigarettes saw a usage increase among youth from 1.5% in 2011 to 11.7% in 2017, 20.8% in 2018 and 27.5% in 2019.
The rise of vaping and e-cigarettes can be largely attributed to the popular vape brand, Juul, which dominates 70% of the e-cigarette market in America.
Since their debut, vaping companies successfully marketed their products as safer alternatives to smoking. In its advertisements, Juul Labs, inc. encouraged people to “make the switch” portraying the product as a low-risk alternative to traditional smoking.
As more young people begin to vape without having ever smoked cigarettes, there is rising concern that they will turn to cigarettes.
Joe Effinger, sophomore biology education major, said he doesn’t think most youth and young adults would go from vaping to traditional cigarettes because of the stigma around smoking.
“That being said, I have seen people who haven’t ever used tobacco switch to cigarettes when they can’t get any vape products,” Effinger said.
However, quitting vaping is likely more difficult than traditional cigarettes due to the lack of smoke, smell and social stigma.
“I think it would be harder to quit vaping because it is more concentrated with nicotine than cigarettes are, and you can vape really whenever you want, but you can’t light up a cig whenever,” Effinger said.
Over the summer, several thousand deaths were reported by the CDC and attributed to vaping-related medical issues. It is important to distinguish that 83% of patients with vaping-related illnesses had reported vaping THC, the hallucinogenic part of cannabis. THC vaping products are often sold on the black market and are unregulated.
Over the summer, Congress reacted to vaping related deaths by instituting a ban on flavored e-cigarette products.
At the federal level, the U.S. has looser regulations on e-cigarettes than many European countries. Because the concentration of nicotine in Juul pods is three times the allowed limit of the European Union, Juul cannot be sold there. The same restrictions don’t exist in the U.S. at this time.
Though they are considered tobacco products, it is notable that in Missouri, e-cigarettes and vaping products are not taxed like cigarettes.
Under Missouri state statutes, e-cigarettes are not included in the definition of “Tobacco Products.”
The long-term health effects of e-cigarette use are unknown.
The effects of cigarette smoking, such as heart disease and cancer, typically occur in adults after years and decades of smoking. Because vape products are so new, the long-term health effects are unknown.