Latest study rules out vaping as gateway to smoking for youth

Is vaping a gateway to smoking?

Several longitudinal observational studies have reported that vaping carries a ‘gateway effect’ for younger adults, including a 2021 study that suggested teenagers who vape were three times more likely to take up smoking.

This week, these reports were ruled out by UCL researchers who looked at the use of e-cigarettes and tobacco products among teenagers and found no relationship between the two, concluding that vaping is in fact not a gateway to smoking. 

The study which was published by scientific journal, Addiction, was conducted in England and looked at groups of 16-24 year olds over the course of 11 years (2007-2018). The young adults were asked if they had ever smoked tobacco products or used e-cigarettes and how regularly they had done so. 

Results showed 30.5 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds were regular smokers while just 2.9 percent used vapes. And ironically, some data showed that smoking prevalence has fallen despite vaping rates increasing over time.

Lead author Dr Emma Beard, a behavioural scientist, said: 'These findings suggest the large gateway effects reported in previous studies can be ruled out, particularly among those aged 18 to 24.’ Beard added that ‘approximately 50,000 smokers are estimated to quit per year as a consequence of e-cigarette use.' 

Professor Lion Shahab, senior author and health psychologist, added: 'These findings are important given the contrasting advice given by health bodies and governments in different countries. Research to date supports the argument that e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco and help smokers to stop smoking.'

'Although some harm from vaping relative to never vaping cannot be ruled out, this study suggests there is little evidence of a substantial gateway effect into smoking.'

These reports are another big win for the vape community, as Health and Social Care secretary Savid Javid recently gave a nod to e-cigarette prescriptions under the NHS in a bid to tackle health disparities this spring. Of the matter, Javid said:

"This country continues to be a global leader on healthcare, whether it’s our COVID-19 vaccine roll-out saving lives or our innovative public health measures reducing people’s risk of serious illness. Opening the door to a licensed e-cigarette prescribed on the NHS has the potential to tackle the stark disparities in smoking rates across the country, helping people stop smoking wherever they live and whatever their background."

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