Crack downs on vaping often use the idea of it being a gateway as justification.
Guy Bentley| January 9, 2017
Vapers at the Virginia Commonwealth University were 3.4 times as likely to be smoking cigarettes a year later as young adults who were vape-free, according to the first-ever longitudinal study examining the progression of college students from vaping to smoking.
Researchers followed 3,757 freshmen for one year to discover if e-cigarette use at the baseline was associated with a progression from not smoking to trying a cigarette or currently using cigarettes at the follow-up.
The study, according to one the most die-hard e-cigarette opponents in the public health lobby today—Dr. Stanton Glantz—is yet another confirmation of the so-called 'gateway' effect of vaping. "The evidence just keeps piling up," proclaims Glantz.
The findings lead the study's authors to conclude that "limiting young adults' access to these products may be beneficial." In plain English, more age restrictions, vaping bans, and higher taxes are just the ticket.
But far from being the smoking gun finally proving e-cigarettes are a gateway to their tobacco-filled rivals, the study itself finds there is still absolutely no evidence of a gateway effect from vaping to regular cigarette use.
Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor in the department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, points out the study's most relevant finding, totally ignored by Glantz:
"Current e-cigarette users at baseline were no more likely to progress to current smoking than young adults who were not using e-cigarettes."
So students who were vapers at the beginning were no more likely to become regular smokers than those who didn't use e-cigarettes at all.
"What this means is that all we know for sure about the young people who Dr. Glantz would have us believe have become smokers because of e-cigarettes is that they have at least once tried a cigarette, but that they have not smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days," writes Siegel. "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."
The conclusion of the study's abstract also leaves out the finding that current vapers were no more likely than non-vapers to start smoking. Yet the authors arrive at the view that limiting young adults' access to e-cigarettes may be beneficial, despite failing to produce any evidence of a net public health harm from young people vaping.
Out of a sample of 3,757 students just six transitioned from vaping to smoking. But before anti-e-cig enthusiasts jump on this statistically insignificant number, Siegel points out that another 20 students who had used cigarettes at the baseline stopped smoking and were exclusively using e-cigarettes at the follow-up. A further 45 students who were dual users at the beginning were only vaping by the end.
Despite the very best attempts of Glantz and Co to push the 'gateway' narrative, reality is just not playing ball.
"For nearly a decade, anti-harm-reduction activists have been claiming that e-cigarette use would inevitably lead young people to become smokers," says Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association. "The data is proving them wrong. As this study shows, young e-cigarette users may experiment with smoking, but that does not mean that these users are actually becoming smokers."