More evidence emerges that shows no correlation between vaping and a propensity to pick up smoking in teens.
The study conducted by the UK’s Public Health England shows no evidence that vaping leads to teenagers smoking traditional cigarettes. The research looked at over 60,000 teens from the UK between 11-16 years old and found that only between 0.1% and 0.5% of teens who had never smoked before, regularly vaped. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), a group of several independent anti smoking advocacy groups, agrees with this stance. Their chief executive, Deborah Arnott acknowledged that a small percentage of the youth are experimenting with vaping, but it does not appear to be leading them to experiment with their combustible counterparts.
These positive results were observed in every age group studied by Public Health England. They found that across all 60,000 participants, only three percent vaped at least once a week. These results alongside their other numbers make them even more confident that most teenagers who vape regularly had previously been smokers. If this is proven true, it would be great news for the industry because it proves vaping is accelerating, not impeding, the continued decline of cigarette smoker rates. The worry has traditonally been that e-cigarettes and their many flavors were attracting non-smoking teenagers who might then eventually move on to smoking. This study indicates that almost all the teenagers who vape had already smoked cigarettes. Given that more and more evidence shows around half of daily vapers eventually quit smoking completely, vaping might soon earn the respect it deserves as a proven way to halve the already shrinking smoker rates.
Large vs. Small Studies
Many who oppose vaping will point to several small scale studies that attempt to connect e-cigarettes with eventually trying combustible cigarettes. But many of these studies just don’t take enough time or participants to really give any solid information. The study released by Public Health England is far from small. As stated previously it analyzed data from over 60,000 students from all across the UK between 2015 and 2017. To get all of this data, it took five separate large scale studies from which to pull their numbers. Linda Bauld, who is a professor of health at the University of Stirling and collaborator on the project said, “Our analysis of the latest surveys from all parts of the United Kingdom, involving thousands of teenagers shows clearly that for those teens who don’t smoke, e-cig experimentation is simply not translating into regular use… Our study also shows that smoking rates in young people are continuing to decline.”
UK On The Right Track
Many in the vaping community feel the United Kingdom has done a fantastic job of integrating e-cigarettes into their culture for harm reduction practices. The tobacco policy manager for Public Health England, Martin Dockrell, thinks that this study and others like it strongly indicate that the United Kingdom is “getting the right balance” when it comes to protecting children from big tobacco’s influence. He cites a regulatory system that first and foremost wants to safeguard children through thoughtful restrictions on marketing as well as exhaustive health and safety regulations. Also important according to Dockrell is providing adult smokers access to safer nicotine alternatives that may help them quit. The strategy seems to be working, as ASH reported that for the first time ever more than half of the nearly 3 million e-cigarette users in the UK had fully quit smoking in favor of vaping.
But even in the UK the public’s understanding of the dangers of vaping leaves a lot to be desired. The same survey by ASH found that only 13% of participants thought that vaping was much safer than smoking, compared with 26% that believed vaping was just as bad or potentially worse for your health. Deborah Arnott of ASH blames this sort of misinformation, in part, on the slowing growth of e-cigarettes, “The rapid growth in e-cigarette use has come to an end while over a third of smokers have still never tried e-cigarettes… It’s very important smokers realize that vaping is much, much less harmful than smoking.”
Do you think that vaping leads teens to try smoking? Should smokers who have never tried vaping give it a shot? Should it be up to the government to spread the word about the true harm reduction value of e-cigarettes? Let us know what you think in the comments.