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Teens Turning Away From Vaping

New study says that young people's e-cigarette experimentation is tailing off either due to the Tobacco Products Directive or vaping losing its appeal

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Some public health officials and most tobacco controllers have been worrying about teen uptake since vaping took off. Various studies have demonstrated that teen vaping was small and confined to smokers and ex-smokers, in both the UK and the USA, but those opposed to vaping continued to spread unsupported fear. A latest study shows that not only is teen vaping a minor issue in the UK, but it appears to be plateauing.

While young people’s experimentation with vaping has “increased in recent years”, write the investigators, “regular use remains limited”. Regular vaping in UK teens has been shown to be confined almost exclusively to smokers and ex-smokers, both in the most recent ASH UK study and one by McNeill, Brose, Calder, Bauld, and Robson in 2018 [link].

While those opposed to vaping altogether wibble about fictional teen epidemics, more sober minds argue that smoking teens accessing vape products are simply reducing their risk exposure as much as adults. As the team highlight, “in a recent randomised trial, e-cigarettes were almost twice as effective in supporting smoking cessation as other nicotine replacement therapies” [link].

They continue, there is “good reason to believe e-cigarettes are safer than smoking, many endorse use within harm reduction strategies”.

The researchers:

  • Graham Moore, Cardiff University and SPECTRUM Consortium
  • Rachel Brown, Cardiff University
  • Nicholas Page, Cardiff University
  • Britt Hallingberg, Cardiff Metropolitan University
  • Olivia Maynard, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies
  • Jennifer McKell, Institute for Social Marketing
  • Linsay Gray, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
  • Anna Blackwell, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies
  • Emily Lowthian, Cardiff University
  • Marcus Munafòd, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies and SPECTRUM Consortium
  • Anne-Marie Mackintosh, Institute for Social Marketing
  • Linda Bauld, Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences & Informatics and SPECTRUM Consortium

Experimental use of e-cigarettes has become more prevalent than experimentation with tobacco, though regular use has to date been limited, primarily occurring among smokers,” they warn, and therefore provided the motivation to conduct this research to discover to what extent this was now occurring.

Within teens who reported use having risen rapidly among their age group, “For most, this was discussed in terms of being something that was ‘tried’ as a shared experience with friends rather than used regularly.”

This casual, or experimental, use was widely accepted as unproblematic and not considered likely to lead to regular use or tobacco smoking. Trying an e-cigarette was driven by various factors, including social gains from sharing with peers, fun, and appeal of flavours.”

An example of the responses they obtained: “Like the fidget spinners, and then I think as soon as fidget spinners die it's going to be the same kind of, ‘Oh why are you still using them?’ kind of approach, the same as vaping.”

The team say that this theme reoccurred across repeated interviews and, “confirm initial indications of e-cigarettes as a ‘fad’ that had peaked and become of less interest.”

They concluded: “The study provides tentative early indications that previously rapid growth in young people's experimentation with e-cigarettes may now be slowing. Young people's perceptions offered a range of causal explanations for the slowed increase in e-cigarette use, including it being a passing fad which had begun to run its course.”

So much for an epidemic, marketing at youth, and a teen gateway to smoking.


  • Young people's use of e-cigarettes in Wales, England and Scotland before and after introduction of EU Tobacco Products Directive regulations: a mixed-method natural experimental evaluation” by Moore 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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