New teen vaping evidence regarding the use of electronic cigarettes by youths finds that they are not more likely to take up smoking (otherwise known as the gateway effect).
All objections to electronic cigarettes tend to be centred around the fear that young people will try vaping and then move on to smoking tobacco products. This fear lies at the heart of current moves in Scotland to ban companies from advertising the truth about ecigs and Europe’s drive to prohibit e-liquid flavours. New evidence from University College London looking at teen use has found that they are not more likely to take up smoking (otherwise known as the gateway effect)
What is the research paper?
“Association of the quarterly prevalence of e-cigarette use with ever regular smoking among young adults in England” has been published by Addiction, a science journal publishing “peer-reviewed research reports on pharmacological and behavioural addictions”.
Who conducted the research?
This is a measure of how much we can trust the findings. In this case, knowing that it was conducted by University College London’s Emma Beard, Jamie Brown, and Lion Shahab is very positive as they are leading independent experts in vape-related research.
What didn’t they do?
The most reliable form of research is known as a randomised control trial. This would have involved giving starter kits to non-smoking teens and seeing if they went on to smoke. This approach would have been unethical and impracticable.
Instead, they looked at data that covered a time period to see how the population acted rather than individuals.
“Time–series analysis can assess the gateway effect by looking at the association between the prevalence of e-cigarette use among young adults with the uptake of smoking generally and among never smokers in particular.”
Where did the data come from?
The Smoking Toolkit Study (STS) data set in England is a rolling program monitoring tobacco and e-cigarette use and has been running since 2006. It is a very reliable set of data. Every month, researchers interview 300 households that are representative of the population in England as a whole.
What did they find?
“The increase in the prevalence of e-cigarette use in England among the entire sample does not appear to have been associated with an increase in the uptake of smoking among young adults aged 16–24.”
Lion Shabab called their findings important because it opposes claims being made by people opposed to vaping.
He added: “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.”
Lead author Emma Beard said: “These findings suggest the large gateway effects reported in previous studies can be ruled out, particularly among those aged 18 to 24. Approximately 50,000 smokers are estimated to quit per year as a consequence of e-cigarette use.”