In a very surprising finding this week from the Defense Department Health-Related Behaviors Survey of Active-Duty Service Members, it looks like vaping has finally grabbed a stronghold in the U.S. military. Even though the data from this recently released report was largely culled from 2015, it indicates a positive trend that continues to move smokers away from tobacco.
In the report, we learned 11.1% of active service members claimed to be regular vapers at the time of the survey, and 12.4% said they had vaped within the previous month.
By comparison, just 7.4% of service members claimed to smoke tobacco cigarettes – a trend that has continued to drop precipitously. Even the number of “occasional smokers” – those who had smoked within the previous month – had dropped by nearly half since the 2011 edition of this survey.
Unsurprisingly, younger members were more likely to smoke, with nearly 20% of junior enlisted members claiming to be regular vape device users.
In an interesting finding, we also learned that the Marine Corps was the branch with the highest percentage of regular vapers/e-cigarette users (16.1%), while their compatriots in the Navy were close behind (14.5%).
In itself, this isn’t interesting. But the Navy instituted some severe restrictions on vaping a few years back, making us wonder if the branch is loosening its stance on these devices. If so, it’s a good shift away from the usually “buttoned up” military approach to recreational behaviors.
Why? Today, all branches of the military receive educational materials about the negative effects both vaping and tobacco use and encourage all service members to quit nicotine products entirely. This, we can obviously get behind.
However, a shift would be welcome from the military’s previous stance on vaping and vape devices, which was far more alarmist and myopic – reflective of the general public’s fear-mongering at the time.
By that, we mean that much of the focus on e-cigs and vape mods was on explosions, secondhand vapor and many of the other persistent concerns from the time. The military also spoke in broad terms about chemical content in e-liquid that has since been disproved or defused. (Once and for all, you’re not getting popcorn lung or formaldehyde poisoning from these devices!)
What also caught our attention is how vaping was more prevalent, but sales of vape devices on military base exchanges has actually dropped. The reasons for this aren’t clear, but might be more indicative of pricing, quality and variety, than it is about vaping in general. With more advanced vape devices becoming cheaper and more-attainable through online retailers, perhaps there’s simply less need to rely on these exchanges for obtaining new products.
Looking for a new set of data, more closely tied to modern understanding of vaping’s effectiveness and safety? Well, you’re in luck – a new version of the survey is now being fielded to active-duty members until Feb. 28. While we’re not sure when this information will hit the streets, it might be interesting to see if these exponential jumps continue to happen, and if the military’s stance on tobacco alternatives has shifted in favor of vapor.