Recently, the Reuters press agency carried a report originating from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, a piece of research hidden behind an Oxford University Press paywall. The study’s key finding was that a quarter of a million American adolescents and teens who had never smoked had tried a vaping device. It pointed out that the results demonstrated a 300% increase in trying vaping in a two-year period.
“We are very concerned about nicotine use among our youth, regardless of whether it comes from conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes or other tobacco products," Dr. Tim McAfee, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, said in a statement. "Not only is nicotine highly addictive, it can harm adolescent brain development.”
The report highlighted that, among non-smoking youth who had tried electronic cigarettes, 43.9 percent said they intended to smoke conventional cigarettes within the next year, compared with 21.5 percent of those who had never used e-cigarettes.
The attempt at a link between the two events of vaping then smoking is obvious, but what it fails to do is refer back to figures on the CDC’s own website: “Each day in the United States, more than 3,200 people younger than 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette, and an estimated 2,100 youth and young adults who have been occasional smokers become daily cigarette smokers.”
That figure equates to over 1.1million every year. Should it be either surprising or disconcerting that less than a quarter of them are breaking up their journey to smoking by trying vaping first?
Our second piece comes from the German Society for Consumer Research funded by the WHO-friendly German Cancer Research Centre.
In good and bad news they claim to find that “the figures mark a strong increase in interest in the new products since the DKFZ commissioned the first survey on the use of e-cigarettes in 2012. By that year, only six percent of the smokers surveyed reported having tried e-cigarettes. In 2013 the number had risen to 14 percent; and in 2014, 19 percent of the smokers and almost nine percent of all survey participants (including smokers, former smokers and non-smokers) stated that they had tried the products at least once. Less than one percent of the respondents, however, use e-cigarettes on a permanent basis.”
“In Germany, we are currently not witnessing a substitution of tobacco cigarettes by e-cigarettes,” says Dr. Martina Pötschke-Langer, head of the DKFZ Cancer Prevention Unit. “This reflects a dual trend in consumption: it is mostly younger people who try the products. They do so for a short time but do not favor them permanently.”
What they do demonstrate is that 10% of German 16-19 year olds have tried vaping, the same percentage of adolescents who are smokers. Although they would like to insinuate that vaping is acting as a gateway their results would lend more credence to the notion that young people are trying them on their journey towards cigarettes in the same way that young people used to try herbal cigarettes prior to adopting traditional tobacco.
The Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park Cancer Institute carried out the final study; it looked at eCigarette use among youth in Poland.
“Our research suggests that e-cigarette use is rapidly increasing among youth in Poland,” said Dr. Goniewicz – research by Goniewicz is frequently cited by our friend Glantz and it is unsurprising that he was asked to add a quote to the final paper.
Findings indicated, yet again, that vaping is not replacing conventional tobacco and consequently would lead one to assume that the gateway effect has been disproved once more.