Health & Studies

US Teens Not Dependent On Ecigs

A team from Ohio State University whips up fear over the supposed American teen epidemic and gateway to smoking, but University College London experts say it simply isn’t an issue

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“Vaping could nearly triple the chance of smoking in teens”, says a group from Ohio State University. Their false fears over a non-existent epidemic, addiction, and a gateway to smoking has been quashed by work by Jackson, Brown, and Jarvis at University College London (UCL).

The clever folks at Ohio State identified two groups of young people “who were equally likely to start vaping based on a number of factors”. Those factors included “alcohol use, marijuana use, impulsivity and their parents' education levels and tobacco history.”

Lead author Keller-Hamilton said: “We found that e-cigarette users were 2.7 times as likely to try smoking.

Co-author Bo Lu added: “I hope that our findings provide policymakers and others stronger evidence of the connection between e-cigarette use and tobacco use and that this will lead to positive impacts on more thoughtful designs in health policy research.”

What they actually demonstrated was that teens more predisposed to smoking were also more likely to try vaping. Their work contains a total absence of evidence that vaping leads to smoking, leaning too heavily on the debunked trope that a teen epidemic exists in the United States.

Sarah Jackson led UCL’s team looking at the data behind gateway claims from 86,902 high‐school students. In particular, they were interested in self-reported “strong cravings to use tobacco in the past 30 days, and wanting to use nicotine products within 30 minutes of waking, in relation to type of product used (cigarettes, other combustible tobacco, smokeless tobacco, e‐cigarettes).

They found:

  • A marked decline in past‐30‐day cigarette smoking and a surge in use of e‐cigarettes between 2012 and 2019
  • Cigarettes carried the highest dependence (42% wanting to use within 30 minutes)
  • E‐cigarettes carried the lowest dependence (9% in 2019)
  • The overall increase in population use of nicotine products between 2012 and 2019 was not accompanied by an equivalent increase in overall population burden of dependence on nicotine

Concluding that although there had been an increase in vaping this was countered by the drop in smoking rates and a decrease in nicotine dependence. The authors consider vaping to be far less addictive than smoking.

The declining smoking rate ought to be reason enough for American researchers to drop the false fear of a teen gateway and focus on the real benefit – vaping works to help smokers quit and offers a fraction of the danger and addictive aspects of smoking for adults.


  • Dependence on nicotine in US high school students in the context of changing patterns of tobacco product use” by Jackson, Brown, and Jarvis – [link]
  • Electronic cigarette use and risk of cigarette and smokeless tobacco initiation among adolescent boys: A propensity score matched analysis” by Keller-Hamilton, Lu et al. – [link]

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Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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