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Study Shreds Vaping As ‘Gateway’ To Smoking And Health Crisis Among Youth

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Another group of researchers is sounding the alarm on the supposed dangers of vaping, warning it’s “clear that e-cigarettes act as a gateway to smoking.”

A new study from the University of California, San Francisco claims to have found no evidence electronic cigarettes played a part in the youth smoking rate drop, and are actually converting vape users into full-time smokers.

The researchers advocate a familiar argument being pushed across the U.S. that youth vaping is creating a public health crisis and e-cigarettes overall must be regulated as if they were traditional cigarettes, reports U.S. News and World Report.

The lead authors of the study said there is no evidence to suggest e-cigarettes are aiding the drop in the youth smoking rate, which they attribute to anti-smoking campaigns by the federal and state governments since 2004. The study found in 2014 roughly 6.5 percent of students had used an e-cigarette at least once. (RELATED: Big Study Linking Youth Vaping To Smoking Actually Contains Evidence To The Contrary)

“Kids who use e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking cigarettes,” Thomas Wills, a professor at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, wrote in an editorial for the study. “It is clear that e-cigarettes act as a gateway to smoking.”

Evidence to suggest a “gateway effect” to smoking among youth who vape is sparse. Only 13 percent of high school students said they currently use an e-cigarette device, down from 16 percent in 2015. Only 1.5 percent of high school students used vape products in 2011. E-cigarette use spiked nearly 5 percent among middle school students between 2011 and 2015, but also experienced surprising declines in 2016.

Smoking rates for middle school students and high school students all dropped by several percentage points over the same period, according to the annual Monitoring the Future Survey.

Since the surgeon general and Centers For Disease Control and Prevention came out against e-cigarettes Dec. 8, state health officials and local lawmakers across the country have been turning up the heat on the industry. Despite these mounting efforts many medical professionals strongly disagree with this characterization of vaping. Furthermore, many argue there is little evidence to back up claims of a “gateway effect” to smoking.

Critics of the federal stance against vaping say officials are ignoring the benefits of using the devices instead of cigarettes and their utility in helping current smokers quit. A survey published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health last year found 57.8 percent of practicing physicians recommend e-cigarettes to smokers trying to quit.

A recent study from the Virginia Commonwealth University of 3,757 freshmen found vapers were no more likely to start smoking than people who do not use the devices. 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.

Evidence suggests e-cigarettes eliminate 95 percent of the dangers associated with smoking, because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals are inhaled through smoke.

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