Last updated on September 7th, 2023
New Studies Now Disprove That Teen Vaping Leads to Tobacco Smoking
One of the first studies examining whether electronic cigarettes could be a gateway to smoking tobacco cigarettes was conducted by Dr. Ted Wagener from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. The study on teen vaping, presented to the American Association for Cancer Research, showed that only one teenager who began vaping e-cigarettes went on to smoke tobacco cigarettes. The study included a group of 1,300 college students.
Despite these impressive results, the news focused on another report from a more recognized government agency, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They reported that the number of kids in grades six through 12 who admitted that they had tried an e-cigarette, more than doubled. This was an increase from 3.3 percent to 6.8 percent. Oh my…sounds bad, so of course anti-ecig PR firms jumped on it and the public mindlessly ate it up.
The CDC’s Report Didn’t Prove the Gateway Theory
Teens trying something new and trendy that’s supposed to be for adults is nothing new, in fact, any child psychologist will tell you it’s a normal part of growing up. Unfortunately, the CDC's report continues to be cited as a reason why we should fear the “gateway” theory, while the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center report, which did test the gateway theory on young adults, didn’t receive much press; at least until recently.
The previously suppressed information about Dr. Ted Wagener’s study is emerging. Among the 2.1 percent of teens who were vaping, more than three-quarters said they had also, (or previously) smoked regular cigarettes. Dr. Wagener said that most teens and adults who actually use e-cigarettes seem to be using them to stop smoking, or at least to reduce the harm from smoking tobacco.
“It didn't seem as though it really proved to be a gateway to anything,” said Wagener.
More Proof From England
In Europe, a survey commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found no evidence that young people either used or perceived e-cigarettes as being a gateway to smoking.
In the case of e-cigarettes, a relatively new smoking alternative, there are two theories worthy of support; one anecdotal and one factual.
1- Anecdoal – It is highly unlikely that a teenager would choose to move from a clean, low risk, cheaper product than tobacco cigarettes to a more harmful, anti-social smoking option.
2- Factual – There are no real scientific facts to support the “gateway” theory. Unless those who claim to worry about it are able to produce real scientific evidence, rather than just making vague assertions, it is really a non issue; one that fuels the support of the Tobacco industry.
As Forbes reporter Jacob Sullum reported in his article, If Smokers Vape, Does That Prove Vaping Causes Smoking?
“Symbolism and emotion seem to carry more weight than evidence and logic.”
Science Over Politics
Dr. Michael Siegel, Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, sums it up with a clearly and intelligently.
“Our public policies must be science-based. But when one draws pre-determined conclusions, rather than rely on the scientific evidence, this does not lead to evidence-based policies. My fear is that because of a strong pre-existing ideology against electronic cigarettes because they simulate the physical actions of smoking, tobacco control groups are drawing conclusions based on ideology rather than on science.”
According to the CDC, between 2011 and 2022, the number of adult cigarette smokers declined, while the number of adult nicotine vapers increased. The number of high school smokers declined, while the number of high school vapers increased. Both the FDA and Public Health England concur that e-cigarettes are markedly less harmful than combustible cigarettes.
Despite these figures, the CDC chooses to ignore the impact of electronic cigarettes on the current decline in smoking. They instead choose to focus on the fact that there has been an increase in e-cig usage among teens and young adults, many of whom, as reports now indicate, were actually former smokers.
THE FOCUS OF HEALTH ORGANIZATIONS
What is most disturbing is that the CDC and other powerful tobacco control groups choose to ignore any of the positive aspects of e-cigarettes – a non-pharmaceutical consumer product that is less toxic than tobacco cigarettes, and has achieved in a few years, what anti-smoking, anti-ecigarette activists have failed to do in over 10 years.
image credit: monstervapers