New Research Considers: Does Vaping Lead to Smoking?
Does vaping lead to smoking? – One incessant argument we hear from vaping regulation advocates is that vaping leads to smoking. Their logic is thus: If people start vaping, they will get hooked on nicotine, which will inevitably lead to smoking cigarettes. In essence, vaping would act as a “gateway drug.”
We understand that these people have good intentions–they are trying to keep people off cigarettes, much like we are. We simply disagree on the optimum method. Interestingly enough, a decent amount of research is surfacing that contradicts their claims.
Director Tom Frieden is on record of U.S. Center for Disease Control states, “Adolescence is a critical time for brain development. Nicotine exposure at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use.” But is the evidence to back this claim?
A former employee of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health says “no.” On his blog, The Rest of the Story: Tobacco News Analysis and Commentary, Dr. Michael Seagel (now a Professor of Health Sciences at Boston University) states that the “CDC is misleading the public…through its outright lies, dishonesty, and deception about e-cigarettes.”
He explains that in their studies regarding vaping teens, the CDC is neglecting to ask youth about frequency of use when posing questions about vaping. Currently, they ask about “past-30 day” use which, while giving a good estimate on experimentation among teens, does nothing to support their claim that vaping leads to traditional smoking.
Dr. Seagel points out that one of the CDC’s UK counterparts, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), have asked youth “not merely whether they used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days, but whether they use them regularly (more than once per week).” Their results offer a much more insightful look at the question of whether or not vaping leads to smoking.
According to ASH, they found that all use of vaporizers by youth was mere experimentation and that there was zero use by non-smoking youth. Only current and former smokers were found to be regular users of vaporizers. The information was presented by Martin Dockrell, Tobacco Control Programme Lead of Public Health England, at the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health.
This isn’t the only study to question whether or not vaping leads to smoking. After conducting a similar study that showed low rates of experimentation with vaping among non-smoking youth, Professor Linda Bauld of Cancer Research UK said that:
There’s a common perception that the rise we’ve seen in the use of electronic cigarettes will lead to a new generation of adults who have never smoked but are dependent on nicotine…Our survey is in line with others in the different parts of the UK that show this is not happening. Young people are certainly experimenting with e-cigarettes, some of which do contain nicotine. However, our data show that at the moment this experimentation is not translating into regular use.
Another study from the journal Tobacco Control found support for a similar conclusion when it comes to adult use of vaporizers. In a survey of 9,300 adults, 18 percent had tried vaping but most had not used them in the previous 30 days. Of the nonsmokers who reported vaping in the previous month 90% did so infrequently (defined as vaping on five or fewer days). Researchers concluded that “Defining adult prevalence as any use in the past 30 days may include experimenters unlikely to continue use, and is of questionable utility for population surveillance of public health trends over time.”
Please note, this research is far from a definitive answer to the questions of whether or not vaping leads to smoking. This is a young technology and much more research is needed before we as a community can come to strong conclusions. However, it is good to know that public health groups are busy trying to help us better understand what can be done to make the world a safer place with less smoking.