Electronic cigarettes are not hooking a new generation of American youth on tobacco and data suggests the devices are helping current youth smokers quit the habit.
A new study from the Virginia Commonwealth University claims that using e-cigarettes at a younger age people three times more likely to become a smoker. The researchers gloss over evidence from their own study, however, to make the claim, which they use as justification for more government restrictions on the practice.
Dr. Stanton Glantz, a regular critic of vaping, led the researcher effort and argues the study adds to evidence that youth vaping has a “gateway effect.” Of the 3,757 freshmen who participated, students who entered the study as vapers were no more likely to start smoking than people who do not use the devices, reports Reason.
Just six students from the body of thousands that participated switched from vaping to smoking cigarettes, while 20 students who began the study as smokers transitioned to vaping.
“Current e-cigarette users at baseline were no more likely to progress to current smoking than young adults who were not using e-cigarettes,” Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, wrote in a critical response to the study. “So all these kids who Dr. Glantz would have us believe have been addicted to cancer sticks because of e-cigarettes are actually not current smokers.”
Siegel also points out that 45 of the study’s participants began as users of both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes, but quit smoking by the time the study concluded. While it is fair to conclude vaping may make someone more likely to try a cigarette, there is little to back up claims it is serving as a gateway to smoking.
“Out of a sample of 3,757 college students, the investigators were only able to find six young people who transitioned from being a vaper to becoming a smoker,” writes Siegel. “So while e-cigarettes were associated with positive health outcomes for 65 students, they were associated with negative outcomes for just six students.”
A CDC report from early December showed a large spike in vaping among high school seniors between 2011 and 2015, but the federal Monitoring the Future survey released a week later showed a three percent drop in youth vaping in 2016. Both reports also showed reductions in the smoking rate of high school and middle school students.
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