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Where Is The Gateway?

The World Health Organization says vaping is a gateway to smoking but its own figures show an accelerating decline in teens using tobacco – so where is this gateway?

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The World Health Organization (WHO) says vaping is a gateway to smoking but its own figures show an accelerating decline in teens using tobacco – so where is this gateway? It helps their argument to claim that e-cigarettes are a tobacco product despite the lack of tobacco. It has released findings as part of the Global Youth Tobacco Survey.

The Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) is a standardised survey forming part of the Global Tobacco Surveillance System. The GYTS is a school-based survey that collects data on tobacco use among children aged 13–15 years. The latest publication summarises the results of descriptive analyses of GYTS data from 25 European countries.

Angela Ciobanu, Technical Officer for the WHO, writes: “Most adult smokers begin to smoke during adolescence, with 88% of first use of cigarettes occurring before the age of 18 years. Tobacco use among young people aged 13–15 years varies from country to country. The prevalence of any tobacco product being used ranged from 28.8% in Bulgaria (2015) to 3.0% in Tajikistan (2019).”

The WHO defines current tobacco use as “any tobacco use anytime in the last 30 days”. It doesn’t provide a definition of current vaping but it can be assumed the same ever-use view applies.

“E-cigarettes”, Ciobanu continues, “are relatively new products on the market, and not all countries have assessed their use in GYTS.”

Relatively new? Vaping is now into its second decade.

To date, 18 countries (including one study site in Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina)) have evaluated prevalence of current use of e-cigarettes in the latest round of GYTS, and only five countries have data from two survey rounds.”

The highest prevalence of current e-cigarette use was reported in Poland (23.4%, 2016), Ukraine (18.4%, 2017), Latvia (18.0%, 2019) and Italy (17.5%,2018), and the lowest was found in Kazakhstan (1.6%, 2014) and Kyrgyzstan (2.8%, 2019) (Fig. 7). Where data were available from at least two rounds of GYTS, there appears to be an increase over time in the use of e-cigarettes.”

Data is included from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Georgia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, North Macedonia, Poland, Moldova, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.

Data is notably absent from Sweden and the United Kingdom – two countries that have world-leading low smoking rates thanks to alternative nicotine products and a more enlightened approach to tobacco harm reduction.

Our absence from the figures makes it far easier for the WHO to say: “E-cigarettes and other novel and emerging nicotine- and tobacco-containing products, such as heated tobacco products (HTPs), are the next frontier in the global tobacco epidemic.”

Spouting absolute nonsense, it continues: “There is clear evidence that [vape] products are addictive and harmful to health. E-cigarette use increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and lung disorders. E-cigarettes are particularly risky when used by children and adolescents, as exposure to a highly addictive substance like nicotine can have long-lasting and damaging effects on the developing brain.”

The WHO repeated these lies today (Tuesday) in its list of 100 reasons to quit smoking.

There is precious little evidence about the addictiveness of nicotine or the long-term risks it poses. Evidence of cardiovascular disease and lung disorders is absent, especially as Stanton Glantz had his work of fiction retracted. Evidence of brain damage cam e from two disreputable mouse studies and isn’t supported by examples of famous geniuses.

If teen vaping rates are genuinely rising in other parts of Europe and the smoking rates continue to fall then either there can be no gateway. Data from ASH shows UK teen vaping rates are dropping, which pours cold water on any notion of teens being hooked by nicotine.

The organisation has announced its intention to conduct a 12-month campaign against tobacco so we can all look forward to its stream of lies continuing into 2021 in the lead up to the next Conference of Parties.


  • Summary results of the global youth tobacco survey in selected countries of the WHO European Region (2020) – [link]
  • More than 100 reasons to quit smoking, WHO – [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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