The most striking thing I’ve noticed about vaping over the past year is just how quickly it has caught on. Though much has been made of the rise of vaping over the past couple of years, my impression is that this year the proliferation of vaping has somehow reached a critical point. Whereas in past years I would occasionally meet some person or other who had given vaping a try, not a day goes by now that I don’t see multiple people vaping on the street, in bars, in their cars, or wherever else. Vape shops, too, have been popping up in huge numbers across the US, with many of them having opened this year; recent industry estimates have counted as many as 15,000 vape shops. A recent poll conducted by Reuters also confirms this impression.
The poll, which was answered by a subject population of around 5700 Americans, showed that the proportion of Americans who vape shot up from 2.6% in 2013 to around 10% this year. The proportion of vapers is even higher among younger Americans, with 18.8% of 18 to 24 year olds vaping, while 20.1% of 18 to 24 year olds can be counted as smokers. Of course, all of these number are set against a background of a consistently declining number of conventional cigarette smokers, which should be some sort of cause for celebration.
Of course, it is not. One of the findings of this poll that is likely to trigger more anti-vaping sentiment in those who are already opposed to vaping is that 75% of vapers have not yet managed to fully quit smoking, and thus use electronic and analog cigarettes concurrently. While, given that we know that only a minuscule and insignificant proportion of vapers are never-smokers (literally below 1%), this would point to vapes as one of the most successful quitting aids out there, with a success rate of at least 25% for those wishing to quit, this has been cause for alarm among various groups. Concurrent use of e-cigs and analog cigarettes has variously been talked of as some sort of impending public health crisis, though concurrent users have been found to smoke a lot less after adding e-cigs to their nicotine intake repertoire. Besides, it’s somewhat hypocritical to worry about that sort of thing when the same people who act worried about this stuff have never brought up numbers for the dual use of other nicotine replacement therapies and analog cigarettes. There are likely few, if any, polls on this topic, but whose fault is that?
One other interesting find from this poll is that some 70% of the 10% current vapers began vaping over the past year. That means that only 3% of the US population was vaping in 2014, a percentage oddly close to the 2.6% of vapers in 2013. Given that we know that vaping had already started growing at a relatively high rate last year, I doubt that the number of vapers only increased by 0.4% over the course of 2014. A way to make sense of these numbers, then, is to say that many people who begin vaping at some point will eventually quit vaping altogether, perhaps because they managed to kick their nicotine addiction, as appears to have been the case between 2013 and 2014. Of course, we will need to see what this pattern looks like in the future, but that’s certainly pretty promising.