Data Debunks Myth Of So-Called Teenage Vaping “Epidemic”
Anti-vaping activists have long attempted to portray vaping and e-cigarettes as a gateway to teenage smoking. Despite their efforts, the current data shows that there is no evidence that shows teens who try vaping will take up smoking.
A study published in the medical journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research found that any connection between teen vaping and smoking can be explained by commonly shared risk factors of tobacco use, such as alcohol experimentation or peer usage. This new data challenges earlier research using rudimentary methodology that claimed to note a connection between teen vaping and tobacco use.
Anti-vaping activists have attempted to discredit the study as an outlier yet, in the same breath praise the study’s sophisticated data analysis and methodology. While the research team notes follow-up studies need to be conducted, they claim that the study offers concrete evidence that directly challenges pre-existing beliefs.
Arielle Selya, an assistant scientist at Sanford Health and lead author of the study, says that it’s important to hold off on drafting policy surrounding vaping while the science behind it’s risk and safety remains inconclusive. Overregulation of vapor products may force both former adult smokers and experimenting teens toward traditional tobacco use.
Vaping Epidemic Myth
A study published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research finds that any relationship between teenage vaping and smoking can be attributed to common risk factors for tobacco usage, such as being surrounded by smokers or whether a teen drinks alcohol. The study, which surveyed more than 12,000 middle and high school students throughout the United States, directly debunks the myth perpetuated by anti-vaping activists that teen vaping leads to smoking.
The researchers used complex statistical analysis to account for pre-existing factors among teens, demographic information, and additional behavioral data such as how often teens were willing to take risks. By accounting for shared risk factors, researchers were able to note additional influences on teenage smoking that may not have otherwise emerged in traditional methodology.
Dr. Arielle Selya, the lead author of the study, notes that while additional research is needed, the disparity among different studies shows that the science surrounding vaping is not conclusive and thus that it’s “really important to hold off on making policies on e-cigarettes until we have a more solid understanding of its effects”. Dr. Sharon Levy, director of the Adolescent Substance Abuse and Addiction Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, applauds the researchers advanced methodology but notes that the study doesn’t account for common knowledge about addiction.
Other critics of the study note that people who are addicted to a substance tend to seek it in any form they can and that teens who become addicted to nicotine through vaping may transition to cigarettes or other tobacco products down the line. Dr. Selya does recognize the limitations of her research but believes her work highlights the limitations of traditional statistical models used in most studies on vaping.
We currently face a global smoking epidemic that currently impacts over 1 billion people around the world. Figures from the CDC estimates that there are 38 million smokers in the United States alone, 16 million of whom currently suffer from smoking-related diseases.
While anti-vaping activists claim otherwise, current data shows that vaping is an incredibly effective smoking cessation device. Research conducted by University College London found that vaping helped almost 70,000 British smokers quit in a single year.
Vaping may, in fact, be the single greatest tool we have to combat the smoking epidemic. A study from the University of Louisville found vaping to be the single most effective smoking cessation device available, even more than prescription options or going cold-turkey.
In addition to being a proven and effective smoking cessation aid, research repeatedly demonstrates the reduced harm vaping poses compared to smoking. A landmark study conducted by Public Health England found vaping to be 95% safer than smoking, a figure the country’s top health agency has repeatedly stood behind.
Lawmakers should listen to experts like Dr. Selya on the potential ramifications of overregulating vaping. Overregulation places everyone at risk by removing or restricting access to safe smoking cessation devices, alongside the potential economic impact of banning the inventory of thousands of small businesses across the country.
As Dr. Selya notes, vaping should be regulated independently of tobacco, and those regulations should be based on peer-reviewed research and not rumors circulating on social media. In addition, these regulations should be periodically reviewed as new research emerges.
Members of the vaping industry must highlight and showcase groundbreaking studies like these to help correct the flurry of misinformation surrounding vaping currently. In addition, members of the vaping community should share studies like this as well as their own stories on social media as a means of countering the current hysterical discourse around vaping.
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