One in eight adult Americans has tried an e-cigarette, according to the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), though only 3.7% are still using them.
Young people age 18 to 24 years and people belonging to the American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AIAN) ethnic grouping topped the statistics, with 21.6% of the former and 20.2% of the latter having tried vaping.
Statisticians Charlotte Schoenborn and Renee Gindi of the CDC’s National Centre for Health Statistics found that, overall, 12.6% of Americans had tried electronic cigarettes.
Their study, “Electronic cigarette use among adults: United States, 2014” was based on data gathered from more than 36,000 respondents last year for the National Health Interview Survey. It represents the first estimates of e-cig use from such a broad set of household interviews.
Importantly, those who had tried e-cigarettes were overwhelmingly either current tobacco smokers, or had quit conventional cigarettes within the past year – a point repeatedly made by the industry and its defenders in response to critics who say e-cigs are attracting new users to nicotine.
Only 3.2% of those who had never smoked tobacco had tried an e-cigarette at least once, and just 0.4% of never-smokers were currently vaping. However, among people between 18 and 24 who had never smoked, almost a tenth (9.7%) had experimented with e-cigs.
Current usage was lowest among those over 65 years old (1.4%), Asians (1.5%), blacks (1.8%), and Hispanics (2.1%).
Men are more likely than women to have tried e-cigarettes (14.2% compared to 11.2%) but the difference in their current usage was less significant (4.1% to 3.4%).
Pick a number
Separately, another U.S. survey – the NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll – reports that 26% of the adults it questioned had vaped at least once, and that about half of those continue to use e-cigs at least occasionally.
It also reported that 57% of American adults support the idea of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulating e-cigs as tobacco products.
The highest earners and people with a college education were most likely to favour regulation, and no more than 29% in any age group, income bracket or educational group opposed it.
The survey, conducted in August, covered 3006 adults.
What This Means: The CDC study identifies American vapers by demographic group and previous smoking status, providing a useful insight into the current market. But its greatest value will come in the future when comparisons can be made against it, showing which areas are growing, or declining, most.
The NPR-Truven figures, meanwhile, are staggeringly different from the CDC’s but raise some red flags. For example, about 25% of respondents to that poll self-identified as tobacco users, though CDC figures for 2013 put cigarette smoking prevalence in the U.S. at just 17.8% of the population.
It is true that a small number of people who use other tobacco products but not cigarettes would have to be added to that total to compare it accurately with the NPR-Truven figures. But nevertheless the suspicion is raised that the latter’s survey reached a disproportionately large number of tobacco users, and hence of vapers too.
– Paul Rodgers ECigIntelligence science correspondent with Barnaby Page ECigIntelligence staff