E-Cigarette Reviews and Rankings

Study Claims Vaping Is a Gateway to Smoking, Proves No Such Thing

The idea behind scientific studies is that they base their conclusion on results obtained through scientific research, but it seems nowadays study authors can claim whatever they want, even if the results of their own research show otherwise.

The so-called “gateway theory”, according to which electronic cigarettes act as a gateway to tobacco smoking for youths, has been a main argument for opponents of vaping for a very long time. The lack of sound scientific proof of this theory, or the fact that it has been debunked time and again haven’t hurt its popularity among propaganda spreaders one bit, and every now and again, it’s back in the news.

Earlier this month, Pediatrics, the flagship journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, published a study titled “Smoking Intention and Progression From E-Cigarette Use to Cigarette Smoking“, which, you guessed it, once again brings the gateway theory into discussion. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, provided your research shines new light on a particular topic, only that’s not the case with this study.

Lead author Olusegun Owotomo and his team set out to find if e-cigarette use is associated with a higher risk of cigarette smoking among teens with no prior intention of taking up smoking. To do this, researchers looked at data of more than 8,000 U.S. adolescents, ages 12-17, who had never smoked. The data was pulled from the  Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study from 2014 to 2016.

After analyzing the data, the authors concluded that out of those teenagers who did not intend to smoke tobacco in the future, those who used electronic cigarettes were more than four times more likely to start smoking cigarettes one year later compared to those who did not use e-cigarettes.

“Research is showing us that adolescent e-cigarette users who progress to cigarette smoking are not simply those who would have ended up smoking cigarette anyway,” Olusegun Owotomo said. “Our study shows that e-cigarettes can predispose adolescents to cigarette smoking, even when they have no prior intentions to do so.”

I don’t know what research Mr. Owotomo is referring to, but it definitely isn’t his study. As Dr. Brad Rodu writes om his blog, all that the authors of this study ended up showing was that “ever e-cigarette use, even one or two times, is associated with ever cigarette smoking, even one or two puffs, 12 months later, for teens who had no prior intention to smoke”.

That’s not real world data. Having taken one or two puffs from an e-cigarette on one occasion does not make you a vaper, just as having tried taking a puff or two out of a tobacco cigarette doesn’t make you a smoker. Unfortunately, that’s how the researches interpreted it…

– In the past 12 months, have you smoked a cigarette, even one or two puffs?

 – Do you think you will smoke a cigarette in the next year?

 – Have you ever used an electronic nicotine product, even one or two times?

The above three questions were the ones asked in the PATH study, and the answers were used to reach the conclusions of Owotomo et. al. They do not reflect reality, but that mattered little to mainstream media outlets, hundreds of which jumped at the opportunity to spread even more misinformation about vaping. Just take a look at these headlines.

Unfortunately, the fact that the gateway theory has been proven wrong several times over the years doesn’t seem to matter to either vaping opponents or the media. Worse still is the fact that the general public will end up reading only the findings of this flawed study, and believe that vaping leads youths to tobacco smoking, when in fact there is no real scientific evidence of that.

Photo: Connor Botts/Unsplash

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