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New Study Casts Doubt on the Claim That Vaping Causes Smoking

Past-month vaping did not predict experimentation with cigarettes in a large sample of teenagers.

JZSJZSA recent study confirms that teenagers who try e-cigarettes are more likely than those who don't to subsequently try conventional cigarettes, which is consistent with the hypothesis that vaping is a gateway to smoking. But this association is also consistent with the hypothesis that pre-existing differences make some teenagers more likely to experiment with both products, and a closer look at the data casts doubt on the idea that vaping causes smoking.

The study, reported last month in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, is based on the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health, which includes a sample of about 12,000 12-to-17-year-olds. Among the students who in 2013-14 had never smoked a cigarette, the ones who had experimented with an "electronic nicotine delivery system" (ENDS) were three times as likely as those who hadn't to have smoked a cigarette by the time of the next survey in 2014-15. The researchers conclude that "ever ENDS use predicts future cigarette smoking."

Notably, however, recent (past-month) ENDS use in the first survey was not associated with subsequent smoking (see Supplementary Table 5, which you can download here). That suggests the overall correlation does not reflect regular vapers who move on to smoking after getting hooked on nicotine. To the contrary, it looks like the more frequent ENDS users tend to stick with e-cigarettes. As Boston University public health professor Michael Siegel notes on his tobacco policy blog, "This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that youth who try e-cigarettes and do not particularly enjoy them such that they become regular users are the ones who are more likely to try smoking, but that youth who actually become vapers are not any more likely to subsequently try a real cigarette."

Siegel calculates that just 21 never-smoking teenagers who reported any past-month vaping in the first survey had tried cigarettes by the second survey. It is not clear that any of them were ever regular vapers or that any of them ever became regular smokers. "It is possible that vaping was not a gateway to smoking for any of these 21 youth," Siegel writes, "but even if it was, they represent just 0.2% of the youth population." He concludes that "despite the widespread claims that vaping is a gateway to smoking initiation among youth, the most definitive study to date of this issue fails to provide any evidence to support that contention." To the contrary, he says, "it provides evidence suggesting that vaping acts as a kind of diversion that can keep some youth away from cigarette smoking."

The overall vaping rate rose between the two surveys while the smoking rate declined, which is consistent with national trends measured by other surveys and with the hypothesis that some teenagers who would otherwise be smoking are vaping instead. So is the finding that cigarette use in the first survey predicted ENDS use in the second survey among teenagers who initially reported no vaping. Furthermore, using ENDS on one to five days in the month prior to the first survey was associated with a statistically significant decrease in the number of past-month smoking days reported in the second survey.

To justify e-cigarette restrictions that he admits may deter smokers from quitting, Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb argues that the availability of these products is leading to more adolescent smoking than would otherwise occur. But neither the general trends nor studies like this one provide much evidence to back up that fear. If anything, it seems that e-cigarettes are helping to reduce smoking among teenagers as well as adults.

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  • Crusty Juggler||

    Vaping caused my adrenal fatigue.

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    Since Crusty only vapes after staging one of his human centipede gladiator fights, this could be correlation, rather than causation.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Wrong. I only vape after I crush cunt.

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    Definitely the most disturbing installment in the Candy Crush Saga.

  • Ken Shultz||

    This isn't the place for therapy.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Wimmin be shoppin', am I right?

  • $park¥ is the Worst||

    Shoppin' and yappin'. Bitches can't keep they moufs shut.

  • Ken Shultz||

    So you do have a sense of humor?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    What's the difference between a woman's argument and a knife?

    The knife has a point.

  • $park¥ is the Worst||

    Lookit Serious Sam over here calling people out over humor.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Oh, so no sense of humor after all. False alarm!

  • $park¥ is the Worst||

    Ken is into humor that's so subjective only he thinks it's funny.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Why does the bride always wear white?

    It's important for the dishwasher to match the stove and refrigerator.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Looks like Mueller has wrapped up his investigation. Reports are suggesting the final report will be delivered next week.

    Our long national nightmare is finally . . . about to begin. My bet is that Nancy leads a vote to impeach and hopes it fails.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Excellent! I've been telling people Mueller would remove Putin's Puppet from office in 2019 with the help of the #BlueTsunami Congress. Looks like I was right once again.

    #TrumpRussia
    #ItsMuellerTime
    #Impeach
    #Resist

  • Ken Shultz||

    Democrats are so smart they can tell us the conclusions of the report before Mueller even writes it!

  • Rich||

    Justice Department preparing for Mueller report as early as next week

    or as late as never.

    Wake me up when there's some *news*.

  • BYODB||

    ^ This. They've been saying his report will come out any day now for *checks his watch* two years?

  • BearOdinson||

    A saw a couple of commercials put together by the liars over at the "The Truth". They used muppets (why??). The first was a complete bait and switch. The second was nothing but bullying.

    1.The guy says vaping is safer than smoking. The gal then responds that one "juul" has as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. IT ISN'T THE NICOTINE THAT CAUSES ALL THE CANCER AND HEART DISEASE! It is the tars and other chemicals in the tobacco that is burned. And by the way, 1 juul is SUPPOSED to be equivalent to a pack of cigarettes in terms of nicotine.

    2. A group of muppets are sitting around and one guy tries to say vaping is safer than smoking, but then out of each of the others' mouths comes a foghorn, just shutting him up. No research, no arguments, no logic. Just STFU.

  • Ken Shultz||

    How's it goin', Bear!

    Where you been?

  • BearOdinson||

    For awhile I was working so much that I barely had a chance to even get online (except at really odd hours). I am kind of caught up (for now) so I have a little time during the day to see what is going on over here.

    I see you are still going strong!

  • BYODB||

    I gotta say I agree with you. I'm glad I stopped smoking and all, but that was my choice to start and my choice to stop. Not sure why blatantly lying to kids about smoking is going to do them any favors, but it seems obvious that lying to them about safer options would be more likely to cause them to start smoking than, you know, not lying to them about it.

    In fact, I think most kids start smoking precisely because their parents don't want them to, or because they're already sick of being told what to do 24/7 so telling them that smoking is the worst thing they could do? Yeah, they're going to start smoking.

    It's like adults think that kids don't know about the internet or something. Which is weird, because all the teens I know live on the internet.

  • Rich||

    A recent study confirms that teenagers who try e-cigarettes are more likely than those who don't to subsequently try conventional cigarettes, which is consistent with the hypothesis that vaping is a gateway to smoking.

    Are there any studies showing that teenagers who try e-cigarettes are more likely than those who don't to subsequently, say, shack up, or to not attend college?

  • BYODB||

    You'd have to be pretty retarded to go from vaping to smoking. The fact you'd need a study to tell you this means that you've probably never been a smoker, let alone vaped.

  • BYODB||

    I should note I don't mean the author when I say 'you', simply the generic non-specific 'you'.

  • Dillinger||

    those puppets say different.

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