Health & Studies

Experts React To JAMA Study

Tobacco harm reduction experts have responded to a new study conducted by researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and published by the JAMA Network

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Tobacco harm reduction experts have responded to a new study conducted by researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and published by the JAMA Network. They looked at data from the US Food and Drug Administration Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study to see how teen use has changed due to the release of salt-based nicotine vapes.

The survey concluded: “These data reveal a shift in tobacco use among young adults, showing historically low cigarette use, which has positive public health significance. However, e-cigarette use is higher (14.5%) than reported previously (11%), coinciding with the introduction of salt-based devices in 2015 to 2018. Over half of established vaping young adults never regularly smoked. Research suggests that exclusive e-cigarette users are unlikely to transition to combustible tobacco.”

Dr Sarah Jackson, Principal Research Fellow at the UCL Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, said: “There has been substantial concern that vaping may act as a ‘gateway’ to smoking among young people, which could undermine the progress that has been made in reducing smoking rates over recent decades. However, studies are increasingly suggesting that vaping may in fact be displacing smoking, diverting those who would otherwise have smoked toward using a less harmful product.

“These results from the US show that while the proportion of young adults using inhaled nicotine (i.e. smoking or vaping) has remained relatively stable over the past decade, the types of products they are using has changed. There has been a clear shift away from smoking tobacco (a uniquely lethal product that kills half of people who use it as intended) to using vaping products (which pose only a small fraction of the risks of smoking). This will have net public health benefits.

“The data also show an increase in the proportion of young adult vapers who were never established smokers. This is not necessarily cause for concern, as it is likely that many of these people would have otherwise taken up smoking. However, it will be important to continue to monitor this.”

Professor Peter Hajek, responsible for many positive vape studies, said: “A concern has been often expressed that for young people, e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking. This new report suggests the opposite, i.e. that e-cigarettes are deflecting young people who would otherwise smoke to doing something much less risky. It also shows that the increase in vaping has been proportional to the decrease in smoking and that nicotine use overall among young people has not increased. This is all good news for finally getting rid of smoking-related lung disease, heart disease and cancer.”

Professor Caitlin Notley has led many ground-breaking pieces of work at the University of East Anglia. She commented: “This study provides evidence that vaping may be displacing tobacco smoking at a population level. This corresponds to evidence reported in England, where we also observe historically low rates of tobacco smoking but increased vaping by young people. This increase appears to correspond to the widespread availability of disposable e-cigarettes and, as this study notes, nicotine-salt based e-liquids.

“The reduction in smoking reported in this paper is important for public health, since the deadliest way to use nicotine is in the form of tobacco smoking. If populations are replacing smoking with vaping, the net public health gain is substantial. However, it is vital to communicate clearly with the public to convey the fact that vaping is a reduced harm alternative to tobacco smoking.

“Unfortunately, in the USA, as seen in this paper, e-cigarettes are incorrectly classified as tobacco products, despite containing no tobacco. This is confusing and may contribute to public misperceptions of the relative harms of vaping or lead people to incorrectly conclude that vaping and smoking are equivalent.”

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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