The number of teens who reported using tobacco products declined from 4.5 million to 3.6 million from 2011 to 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, youth use of e-cigarettes fell from its peak in 2015. You might think that health activists and their allies in the press would be celebrating this reality. You would be wrong.

Many activists have chosen to simply ignore the large declines in tobacco and e-cigarette use, pointing instead to the availability of flavored e-cigarette products and the rise of independent competitors to Big Tobacco like Juul. Instead of acknowledging that e-cigarettes are helping millions of Americans transition to products estimated to be at least 95% less harmful than cigarettes, a vocal minority is dead set on spreading misinformation about the dangers of vaping. This is unfortunate and a disservice to a productive dialogue about improving public health. 

Since Aug. 8, 2016, it has been against federal law to sell e-cigarettes to minors and to introduce new vaping products without a government premarket review. The Food and Drug Administration began aggressively enforcing the youth sales ban this year against noncompliant retailers, a move supported by vaping advocates. The FDA could easily ramp up that enforcement even more, and it should.

The vaping industry has now been regulated by the FDA for more than two years. The vast majority of companies comply with FDA rules. However, without much-needed reforms, upcoming regulatory deadlines could force these overwhelmingly small businesses to close their doors.

This is a debate that should be shaped by real facts and sound science. With use of all tobacco products by teens falling sharply and increasing evidence that e-cigarettesespecially flavored ones — actually help incentivize adult smokers to quit, it is important that we not let fearmongering and misinformation guide the public discourse.
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