New Study Busts Myth Of E-Cigarettes As Gateway To Teen Smoking

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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There is no link between the surge in teens taking up e-cigarettes and then transferring to regular tobacco, according to the anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health.

Published in the journal Public Health and conducted with polling company YouGov, the research showed teens are experimenting more with e-cigarettes. In 2013, four percent of U.K. 11-18 year-olds said they had tried e-cigarettes “once or twice,” with that figure rising to 10 percent in 2015.

The number of regular e-cigarette users, defined as those vaping at least once a month, was tiny at just 2.4 percent. According to ASH, “almost all of those reporting regular use were young people who had been or were currently smokers.”

Increasing awareness of e-cigarettes was the most likely factor contributing to the uptick, the paper argues. In 2013, almost a third of young people were unaware of e-cigarettes compared to just seven percent in 2015.

The most recent U.K. statistics on smoking for 11-15-year-olds is at an all-time low of three percent. “This indicates that an increase in awareness and use of electronic cigarettes is not coinciding with any increase in teen smokers,” ASH said in press release.

Fruit flavoured e-liquids were the most popular overall among young vapers, but those who smoke or previously smoked preferred the classic tobacco flavours. While the results were a win for e-cigarette advocates who have consistently claimed the devices do not act as a gateway to regular tobacco they didn’t have everything their own way.

Though the awareness and popularity of e-cigarettes are on the rise so are perceptions that they are dangerous. Between 2013 and 2015 the proportion of people believing e-cigarettes are as harmful as regular tobacco soared from 11 percent to 21 percent. (RELATED: New Study Claims E-Cigarette Vapor No More Dangerous Than Air)

Hazel Cheeseman, Director of Policy at ASH commented:

These results should reassure the public that electronic cigarettes are not linked with any rise in young people smoking. Although more young people are trying electronic cigarettes and many more young people are aware of them, this has not led to widespread regular use or an increase in smoking.

ASH’s findings back up the findings of the largest study conducted on e-cigarette use among young people. Assessing a survey of 26,500 people across all EU member states, Harvard School of Public Health’s Constantine Vardavas found the highest proportion of e-cigarette users were among those young people who were also heavy smokers and were looking into quitting.

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Guy Bentley