You’ve probably heard the common idea that e-cigarettes can act as a gateway to smoking. Everyone from officials to lawmakers has touted this belief. We went through the research to see if there is any validity to these claims.
Is Vaping A Gateway To Smoking?
Thomas Freiden, a director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated: “many people are starting out with e-cigarettes and then going on to smoke conventional cigarettes condemning many people to struggle with a lifelong nicotine addiction.” One of the chief concerns from many of the proponents of this belief is that people will become hooked on e-cigarettes and then switch over to regular cigarettes after developing a nicotine habit.
With the idea being so common, we thought it would be important to analyze the data available and see if there is any validity to this idea. Could vaping cause people to start using other tobacco products?
Let’s take a look at some of the studies that have examined this phenomenon.
A study recently published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research suggests that e-cigarettes will not likely act as a gateway to cigarettes. According to the lead author of the study, David Levy, Ph.D., “recent claims by some scientists that e-cigarettes are likely to act as a gateway to the use of tobacco products are overstated.”
The research carried out by Levy concluded that overall, e-cigarettes would have a positive public impact. “Our study indicates that considering a broad range of reasonable scenarios, e-cigarettes are likely to reduce cigarette smoking and not lead to offsetting increases in harm from the use of e-cigarettes and more deadly cigarettes,” said David Levy.
But it doesn’t stop there. An examination of the e-cigarette trend by the British Journal of General Practice took a look at the gateway myth. In England, the number of current e-cigarette users that were not previously smokers remains incredibly small at 0.2%.
Action on Smoking and Health Wales took a similar look at electronic cigarettes. Through their research, they discovered 98% of electronic cigarette users had first used tobacco. The fact that such a small number of e-cigarette users began using them without ever having smoked gives credence to the idea that vaping is not a gateway to smoking.
Oklahoma State University carried out a study that examined the gateway possibility. Researchers looked at a group of 1,300 college aged students. They questioned participants about their current tobacco use and what products they’d tried or frequently use. 43 people from the group said that e-cigarettes were the first tobacco-related product that they’d tried. Of those 43, only one person stated they went on to smoke a regular cigarette.
The study came to conclude that “uptake of ETP (emerging tobacco products) is poor, unlike cigarettes and SLT (smokeless tobacco), and does not appear to lead to significant daily/non-daily use of cigarettes and SLT.”
There have been no studies that have been able to provide substantial evidence that demonstrates electronic cigarettes will act as a gateway to smoking traditional cigarettes. The research overwhelmingly indicates the primary users of electronic cigarettes are former smokers who are trying to quit or cut back on their cigarette use. Every study that has looked at this has discovered that the number of people who try electronic cigarettes who have never smoked before is small. Even smaller is the number of people that have moved from electronic cigarettes to tobacco products.
A REVERSE GATEWAY
If anything, vaping may act as a reverse gateway leading smokers away from cigarettes and towards the more healthy alternative that electronic cigarettes offer.
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine published a study examining the use of vaporizers as a smoking cessation tool. Their results found that 70% of people who used e-cigarettes more than 20 times per day were able to quit smoking during a six-month period. These results suggest that e-cigarettes may be a potent tool in helping people quit smoking.
Dr. Riccardo Polosa published in this study from the International Journal of Environmental Research that resulted in similar conclusions. Dr. Polosa’s study examined 71 smokers over the course of a year. Each smoker was given instructions on purchasing an e-cigarette and asked to begin using one with the intent of quitting smoking altogether. After one year, 40% of participants were able to quit.
While these numbers are not at 100%, the rates of cessation among vape users rank higher than those of people attempting to quit with traditional nicotine replacement therapy. In this study published by Pinney Associates Inc., doctors gave participants nicotine gum to aid them in quitting smoking. After six months, only 8.4% of participants were able to quit.
Because of the nature of scientific studies and the fact that each smoker has different genetic tendencies and inborn habits, it is impossible to conclude for certain how much more effective electronic cigarettes are in the cessation of smoking. More research is still necessary to come to a firm conclusion. Regardless, the data looks promising for electronic cigarettes being a stable method for smokers to use to quit.
We think this is an important issue that could be preventing electronic cigarettes from gaining the support they need to become an accepted phenomenon rather than a demonized object.
With all of this information, why is the gateway myth still propagated by lawmakers? Should the gateway myth be ditched? Is vaping really a gateway to smoking, or is this just fallacy? Tell us your thoughts on the subject in this Facebook post.