Study Looks To Cut Through Cloud Of Misinformation Surrounding E-Cigarettes

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Researchers leading a new study on vaping in the United Kingdom are investigating the often repeated claim that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking.

Cancer Research UK is funding a study looking into vaping trends among teens, and what using the products means for their future health. One of the main pillars of anti-vaping groups is that the products are purposefully marketed to teens, which the companies deny, and are generally an insidious way to keep people addicted to nicotine, while also hooking a new generation on the products, reports Vaping Post.

Professor Jason Hughes, of the University of Leicester’s College of Social Science, Arts and Humanities, is leading the research effort, which will also study how “social learning, media influences, peer networks, and a range of socioeconomic factors” influence youth vaping.

“A great deal of controversy surrounds the extent to which e-cigarettes might act as a ‘gateway’ to smoking, and might be exploited by tobacco companies as a new means of recruiting a generation of nicotine dependents,” Hughes said, according to Vaping Post. “However, equally, e-cigarettes might offer a way for young smokers to switch to a safer source of nicotine or to stop entirely.”

A study conducted by the University of Louisville in April investigating teen attitudes towards vaping found that they are generally well educated on the reduced risks provided by e-cigarettes. The trends suggest that teens and young adults in the U.S. are largely giving up e-cigarette use. A survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released June 15 showed that 11.3 percent of high school students used a vaping device in 2016, down from 16 percent in 2015.

The government in England recently endorsed electronic cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking, advocating against vaping bans in offices and public spaces.

The U.K.’s Department of Health released a policy paper on e-cigarettes July 18, backing the devices as useful tools to quit smoking and eliminate secondhand risks to the public. The department’s Five Year Tobacco Control plan aims to significantly slash the smoking rate in Britain, and argues that maximizing public access to vaping will help achieve this goal.

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