E-Cigarette Reviews and Rankings

Yet Another Study Debunks the Popular “E-Cigarette Gateway” Theory

A recently published observational study published in the journal PubMed shows that e-cigarettes do not push youths to smoking, and that they are in fact diverting them from much more harmful cigarette smoking.

One of the most popular argument of vaping opponents is the so-called gateway theory, according to which vaping acts as a gateway to tobacco for kids and teenagers, many of whom end up smoking tobacco later on. The only problem with this argument is that it has been debunked by multiple surveys and studies over the years. But, as we all know, anti-vaping crusaders are immune to simple things like data analysis, so the gateway theory is still in the conversation, more than ever actually, thanks in no small part to the popularity of pod systems like the JUUL among American youths. And the only thing we can counter it with is more hard evidence.

Using data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey (1999-2018), Arielle Selya, a researcher at the University of South Dakota, set out to discover if there was any truth to the gateway theory, by determining the corresponding ages of initiation and prevalence trends for both exclusive tobacco cigarette users and e-cigarette users, as well as dual-users. Projections from counterfactual models based on data from 1999-2009 (before electronic cigarettes became popular), were compared with actual trends based on data from 1999-2018.

Teenagers aged 12-17 years were split into different groups – exclusive cigarette users (≥100 cigarettes smoked and ≤100 days vaped), exclusive e-cigarette users (<100 cigarettes smoked and >100 days vaped), and dual users (≥100 cigarettes smoked and >100 days vaped).

After analyzing nearly two decades-worth of data, Selya determined that exclusive tobacco cigarette use among teenagers drop between 1998 and 2018, while e-cigarette use and dual-use increased after 2009, soon after the vaping phenomenon started gaining traction. Another interesting finding of the study was that the age of initiation for electronic cigarettes was higher than that of cigarettes. That alone puts the whole gateway argument into question.

“Electronic cigarettes may have offset conventional smoking among US adolescents between 2010-2018 by maintaining the total nicotine use prevalence and diverting them from more harmful conventional smoking,” the author concluded. “Additionally, electronic cigarette users appear to initiate at older ages relative to conventional smokers, which is associated with lower risk.”

Interestingly, Arielle Selya was involved in a previously published study on the relationship between conventional smoking and vaping, and their shared risks. In that study, the UND researcher wrote that “e-cigarette use does not appear to be associated with current, continued smoking. Instead, the apparent relationship between e-cigarette use and current conventional smoking is fully explained by shared risk factors, thus failing to support claims that e-cigarettes have a causal effect on concurrent conventional smoking among youth.”

As I mentioned in the beginning, this is just one of the many other research works that have debunked the theory so far. Is that going to stop bling activists from claiming that vaping pushes teens to smoking later on in life? No! But at least we’ll know the truth about this tired argument.

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