The fear continues to swirl around that vaping is a gateway to smoking, especially for young people. While some studies may appear at a glance to bolster that fact, those studies may be overlooking important points while ignoring more enlightened research.
Vaping a Gateway to Smoking?
Less than 1 Percent of Never-Smokers Turn to Vaping
While some U.S. surveys did find an increase in numbers of people who never smoked taking a few puffs or otherwise experimenting with vaping, their experimentation typically stops there. The number of never-smokers who end up vaping regularly remains extremely low, at far below 1 percent.
This fact was brought to light in a report by an expert panel out of the U.K., which also reported that:
- Almost no 11 to 14-year-olds in Britain who have never smoked currently vape
- Only 0.2 percent of never-smokers aged 16 and older end up vaping, which is about the same rate as those who use licensed nicotine products
- The percentage of adolescents who smoke cigarettes continues to decline at a steady rate in the U.S. and the U.K., making it highly unlikely that vaping is serving as a gateway to smoking for that age range
A Way out of Smoking, Not into It
That same U.K. expert panel also found one of the top reasons people turn to vaping is to quit smoking – not as a way to start. About 30 percent of attempts to quit smoking in England involved turning to vaping, higher than any other smoking cessation method available.
A report from the Royal College of Physicians came to similar conclusions. It stated that vaping is being used “almost exclusively” by smokers as a safer alternative to smoking in order to reduce harm or quit altogether. The report went on to confirm vaping was indeed “much more popular” than other nicotine replacement therapies, and it appeared to effectively help smokers put down traditional cigarettes.
But What about Those ‘Other’ Studies?
Other studies may appear to peg vaping as a gateway to smoking, but those studies often fall short in a number of areas. State University of New York public health professor Lynn Kozlowski points to two U.S. studies that found young people who tried vaping were “somewhat likelier” to try smoked tobacco products, but that didn’t mean vaping was a full-fledged gateway to smoking.
Flaws with such studies include things like:
- Percentages so small they could be considered statistically insignificant
- Not differentiating between trying “a few puffs” of a vaping device over a specific period and regular, ongoing vape use
- Focusing only on cigarette smoking and not considering use of other substances such as hookah, marijuana, alcohol or smokeless tobacco
Kozlowski additionally notes that while products themselves can influence the likelihood of using other products, it’s also important to look at contextual and personal factors that could lead to use of the product. The mere existence of a vaping device is not likely to be the driving force that results in masses of never-before smokers, although it has already proven useful for helping a portion of the masses quit.