Research hurts claims that e-cigarette use directly leads teens to pick up smoking eventually
Concerns over teen vaping have always been a part of the e-cigarette conversation. Those in favor of vaping believe that it provides smokers with a powerful option to curb their addiction. Meanwhile, critics are convinced that not only will general acceptance of vaping as a smoking cessation tool lead teens to pick up e-cigarettes, but that their vaping habit will eventually turn them into full-blown smokers.
Luckily, evidence has grown over the last several years that indicates these concerns are mostly false. One such study showed that not only is vaping not a gateway to smoking, it’s actually closer to a roadblock. These results were published in Science Daily by researchers with the UK Centre for Substance Use Research.
The “Roadblock” Study
The researchers wanted to understand how teens perceive their vaping and how it affected their probability of picking up traditional cigarettes. This was accomplished through qualitative interview research with vapers between the ages of 16-25 from across England and Scotland. After concluding their interviewing, some very interesting, but clear, patterns were observed. It seems that the overwhelming majority of young adults see e-cigarettes as declining their drive to smoke, rather than increasing it. This distinction carried over when discussing their peers, as around the same percentage of participants indicated they didn’t believe their friends were at an increased risk of smoking either.
According to the lead researcher, Dr. Neil McKeganey, “There was very little indication amongst the young people interviewed that e-cigarettes were resulting in an increased likelihood of young people smoking. In fact, the majority we interviewed, including those who were vaping, perceived smoking in very negative terms and saw vaping as being entirely different to smoking.” Adding to the positive takeaways was that the vast majority of those surveyed perceived traditional smoking as “extremely harmful” to their health, showing that vaping isn’t blurring the lines about the dangers of smoking.
Growing Evidence Against Gateway Myth
While this article was published back in 2016, the case it’s making has only grown much stronger over the last couple of years. This is especially true in regards to concerns that a significant chunk of otherwise non-smoking teens are now becoming addicted to vaporizers. Last summer a study was published by Public Health England that showed no evidence that connected vaping with starting to smoke. The large-scale study asked over 60,000 students between the ages of 11-16 about their vaping/smoking habit. The researchers concluded that only between 0.1% and 0.5% of those who had never smoked, vaped on a regular basis.
Then just earlier this year a study was published by renowned tobacco control expert, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos that also indicated only a tiny portion of non-smokers ever start vaping. The survey of over 4000 adults found that only 0.2% of those who had never been smokers were current vapers. Looking at these studies, it becomes clear that the so-called epidemic is being overblown in the media
It should be apparent to anyone paying attention that the risk posed to society by vaping is more of a myth than a reality. The truth is that news outlets like stories that sounds scary because they cause more people to tune in. It’s much less appealing to tell the truth that, while not 100% harmless, vaping does represent one of the best and most satisfying alternatives to smoking available.
PHE famously came out in 2015 saying that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking, but in spite of this polls have shown that less than 13% of adults understand that vaping is so much safer than smoking. In fact, over double the number of those polled said that they thought vaping was just as, if not more dangerous than tobacco. These numbers must improve if vaping is ever going to reach its full potential as a harm reduction and smoking cessation tool. After all, if you don’t believe there is a good reason to make the switch, why even ever bother?
Are you surprised at the evidence regarding teen vaping? Do you think the media is overblowing the entire issue for more views? How can we help more people understand the real benefits of vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.