Study Debunks the Vaping Gateway Theory
A recent study has blown a hole in the theory that vaping encourages young people to start smoking.
Previously it’s been shown that teenagers and young adults who vape are more likely to smoke later in life, and those pushing for tighter laws on e-cigs continually point to this link when calling for increased regulation. But as we know, correlation doesn’t equal causation, so this observational research fails to prove that vaping causes smoking.
And now, to pour even more cold water on the theory, analysis carried out by a team of researchers at the University College London suggests the explanation actually has nothing to do with the so-called “gateway effect”.
Instead, the study concluded that rather than vaping acting as a gateway, the reason for the link could be simply that those who try e-cigarettes are simply more likely to try smoking as well.
Analysing the Research
For the study, the team of researchers, led by Lion Shahab, looked at over 12,000 middle school and high school students in the U.S and followed up to see how the rate of smoking among 16-24-year-olds has changed since vaping became popular.
The team theorised that if there was a causal link between vaping and smoking, then the rate of young people vaping increasing would reflect in higher smoking rates too.
Interestingly, the opposite was true. After analysing the data, they noticed that despite a 5% increase in the number of people vaping, the smoking rate actually fell by 5%.
In the paper, the researchers said “there was evidence for no association between the prevalence of e-cigarette use and ever regular smoking among those aged 16–24”, before concluding “prevalence of e-cigarette use among the youth population in England does not appear to be associated with substantial increases or decreases in the prevalence of smoking uptake. Small associations cannot be ruled out.”
Those opposed to vaping continually suggest the link between vaping and smoking in later life means the use of e-cigarettes causes people to eventually spark-up cigarettes, but hopefully this new research will add some much-needed perspective to the debate.
Why is Research Like this Important?
As many of you will know, vaping can offer a crucial lifeline for those struggling to quit smoking without a nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) product.
Although there are other NRTs on the market, e-cigarettes are proven to give smokers a better chance of quitting compared to other nicotine replacement products such as patches or gum. In fact, a study promoted by the NHS found that those vaping were twice as likely to make a successful quit attempt.
Despite a lack of evidence, the gateway claim is pushed by some hugely influential bodies such as the FDA and even the World Health Organization (WHO).
These powerful organisations have the reach and influence to sway government policy one way or another, but sadly it appears much of the evidence is being ignored. Instead these bodies, the main focus of which is supposed to be protecting public health, would seemingly prefer to continue with their ill-fated, anti-vaping witch hunt regardless of what the science says.
The tragedy is this will only prevent more people from quitting the much more harmful habit of smoking.
What’s the Takeaway?
Despite the frequent headlines about vaping acting as a gateway to smoking, many of us have continued to question this theory due to the absence of data to back it up. Now, thanks to this research, we have a clearer understanding of the facts so hopefully some important people will start to take notice and we can have a fair and open debate without the facts being stifled.
If you’re interested in reading more about how the over regulation of vape products is having an adverse effect in some countries, take a look at our “Reducing Smoking Rates: Why Harm Reduction Policies Yield Best Results”.
Alternatively, if you’re a beginner and you’d like some useful info to help you switch from smoking to vaping then check out our Getting Started guide where you’ll find all the info you need!