When the Welsh Assembly were trying to push through restrictions on vaping in public they lent heavily on a supposed gateway effect. Protecting the children from a lifetime of addiction to smoking was part and parcel of their perversion of the precautionary principle. Give Martin McKee a poke and a few column inches and he will wax lyrical about how the danger is real and present.
The NASEM report stated:
- There is substantial evidence that e-cigarette use among youth and young adults increases the risk of ever using combustible tobacco cigarettes.
- For youth and young adult e-cigarette users who ever smoke cigarettes, e-cigarette use may increase the frequency and intensity of subsequent cigarette smoking. E-cigarette use by youth and young adults may increase how long they smoke combustible cigarettes in the near term.
These statements were clung to by those opposed to the idea of tobacco harm reduction, not so much NASEM’s point where it noted there appears to be a link between the rising popularity of vaping and plummeting overall rates of smoking in teens.
The concept of a gateway effect is only entertained by the majority of experts in the UK when it refers to the route out of smoking, but the latest study from Georgetown University adopts a British perspective.
David Levy, one author of the study, professor of oncology at Georgetown, said: “We found a strong and consistent inverse relationship between vaping and smoking across the different datasets for both youth and young adults. This finding is important because it indicates the country experienced a major reduction in youth and young adult cigarette smoking when vaping became more popular.”
“We see that 2014 was a tipping point year when vaping became popular, and cigarette use then declines much more rapidly than in previous years. The data paints a consistent picture of accelerated reductions in youth and young adult smoking prevalence as vaping becomes more widespread. Vaping has had a positive effect on reducing cigarette smoking. On a population level, any effect that vaping may have had act as a gateway to cigarette smoking during the time frame examined appears to be small relative to the effects of vaping leading to less smoking.”
The study replicates the findings of one Levy conducted in 2016, when he said: “Under most plausible scenarios, vaporised nicotine products use generally has a positive public health impact.”
The work has been damned in some quarters as “meaningless bells and whistles”, but can any positive press coverage be bad when America is steaming in the direction of full prohibition?
- 2016 study: Nicotine & Tobacco Research, Volume 19, Issue 2, 1 February 2017, Pages 149–159, https://doi.org/10.1093/ntr/ntw158
- 2018 study: Levy DT, Warner KE, Cummings KM, et al, Examining the relationship of vaping to smoking initiation among US youth and young adults: a reality check, Tobacco Control Published Online First: 20 November 2018. https://doi.org/10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2018-054446