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Gateway Research

Two studies were published last month, both looking at the subject of vaping being a gateway to tobacco.

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Two studies were published last month, both looking at the subject of vaping being a gateway to tobacco. One, originating in Scotland, reports a link between vaping and smoking. The other, from Canada, also laid claims to having data that supported a link.

It will come as no surprise to any vaper that these anti-vaping pieces of work are both locked away, behind paywalls, from prying eyes. The trio of Sunday Azagba, Neill Bruce Baskerville, and Kristie Foley conducted one of them, titled Susceptibility to cigarette smoking among middle and high school e-cigarette users in Canada.

What we need to know about the bias of the team becomes evident in the first sentence of the abstract: “There is a growing concern that the historic reductions in tobacco consumption witnessed in the past decades may be undermined by the rapid increase in e-cigarette use.”

There is a concern, held almost exclusively by those with an axe to grind or a pharmaceutical paymaster to keep happy. There is no “growing” concern, other than the unfounded fears being whipped up by the aforementioned irresponsible academics. To date, there is absolutely no reliable evidence to support the concept of a gateway effect dragging non-smokers into full-time smoking.

The team flounder when justifying this fear: “This concern is fueled in part by the exponential growth observed in youth e-cigarette use, and the increasing marketing efforts by e-cigarette companies to gain market share.”

They grasp at straws with citations, being so bold as to link to a laughable study conducted by Barrington-Trimmis (one of Stanton Glantz’ sock puppets). They proudly claim their results line up with Barrington-Trimmis’, and state: “In the present study, analyses stratified by grade levels also found that e-cigarette use was associated with susceptibility to cigarette smoking for both younger (grades 7–9) and older grades (10 − 12) of students, with results suggesting a stronger association among younger students.”

They conclude: “One in four Canadian youth aged 15–19 has ever tried an e-cigarette and results from this observational study suggest that Canadian never smoking adolescents and youth who have ever tried an e-cigarette are nearly twice as likely to be susceptible to future cigarette use.”

The team from Scotland produced the study titled: Relationship between trying an electronic cigarette and subsequent cigarette experimentation in Scottish adolescents: a cohort study.

The statistical analysis exercise focused on lumping children into groups where they could be predicted likely or not likely to become smokers. Then the team factored in if they vaped and went on to try smoking: “Multivariate logistic regression was used to control for potential confounding factors—sex, age, ethnicity, family affluence, smoking within the family, smoking by friends and susceptibility to smoking.”

Results from Scotland

“This study found that young ‘never-smokers’ who had tried an e-cigarette were more likely to try a cigarette during the following year than young never-smokers who had not tried an e-cigarette.”

At least the second study demonstrated awareness of its huge limitations:

  1. Causality cannot be inferred
  2. “Most of the young people whom we categorised as having initiated smoking may have only taken one or two puffs of a cigarette during the follow-up period. Therefore, we do not know whether any of these young people will transition to regular smoking.

The fact remains, academics can talk about possible links between vaping and smoking, but they can’t explain why the teen smoking rate continues to fall in Britain and North America if it exists. The truth is simple, teens experiment and all of those who would otherwise have experimented with cigarettes will play about with vaping too – as will some others due to it being safer and trendy. But, for as long as teen smoking rates continue to fall, the worst that can be said for vaping is that it is acting as an intervention, saving youths from a smoking habit, not drawing them into one.

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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