17-year study shows ‘little evidence’ that teen vaping leads to adult smoking

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been on a mainstream media rampage regarding a self-invented conspiracy theory that claims teen vaping leads to adult smoking.  Fueled by growing vocal support from politicians on Capitol Hill from both sides of the aisle, the nation’s premier public health agency has increased regulations on flavored vapes sold in convenience stores and even threatened to ban them altogether. 

Citing this same “vaping is a gateway” theory,” state and local lawmakers are now implementing their own legislative actions which prohibit the sales of vape products or increase their taxation requirements.  Meanwhile, the highly carcinogenic and potentially lethal combustible tobacco products remain largely unscathed.

Increasing taxes on Big Tobacco seems to never cross the minds of our elected representatives, nor does limiting the easy access to Marlboros and Salems in gas stations, pharmacies, and even Walmart stores.  In fact, Walmart and Sam’s Club have recently decided to ban flavored vaping products without doing the same for tobacco cigarettes.    And all of this is based on the unproven myth that teen vapers are more likely to become adult smokers. 

Related Article:  Walmart discontinues flavored vapes; raises legal age on tobacco to 21

A group of UK researchers from Cardiff University has recently released the findings of a new study involving nearly 250,000 teenage respondents from across Great Britain, Scotland and Wales.  By compiling data collected by multiple public health organizations between 1998 and 2015, the scientists wanted to identify the evolving, teenage perceptions of smoking over the 17-year timeframe.  Notably, the analysis ends just as vaping was at its height in public popularity and acceptance. 

Great Britain hopes to be smoke-free by 2025

The Cardiff vaping study is entitled Have e-cigarettes renormalised or displaced youth smoking is available in the BMJ Tobacco Control Journal (BMJ).  The scientists began by tracking the social behaviors of young people over the full seventeen years between 1998 and 2015.   To compile this information accurately, the researchers relied on data collected and compiled annually by the School Health Research Network (SHRN) survey , the annual Smoking Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England Survey (SDDU, the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey, and several others by conducted by only the most reputable public health organizations for children.

Related Article:  The second-hand vape debate: E-cig vapor is 99% less carcinogenic than cigarette smoke

What the researchers discovered is that teenage public perceptions of smoking gradually evolved as the years progressed.  For example, about 60 percent of school age children in 1998 reported that they had at least tried a combustible cigarette at least once in their lives.  By 2015, that number had dropped sharply to a mere 19 percent.  Today, the same statistic is around 2 percent depending on the age group, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The UK researchers also identified other interesting trends over the years, including the following highlights.

  • The percentage of children ages 13 to 15 who claimed to have tried a cigarette at least once in their lifetimes declined from 60 percent in 1998 to 19 percent in 2015.
  • For the same demographic and timeframe, the percentage of regular teen smokers declined from 19 percent in 1998 to a mere 5 percent in 2015.
  • Perceptions of smoking also changed rather dramatically. In 1998, 70 percent of school age children thought experimental smoking was “okay” compared to 27 percent in 2014.
  • Perceptions of regular or daily smoking being “okay” also dropped from 47 percent to 23 percent during the same periods.

In the summary of their peer-reviewed paper, the co-authors admit that they could not identify a substantive link connecting teen vaping and adult smoking.  In fact, the evidence suggests that the rise in popularity of vaping in the past few years has only shined a brighter spotlight on just how deadly combustible tobacco truly is.

“There was a marginal slowing in the decline in regular smoking during the period following 2010, when e-cigarettes were emerging but relatively unregulated. However, these patterns were not unique to tobacco use and the decline in the acceptability of smoking behaviour among youth accelerated during this time. These analyses provide little evidence that renormalisation of youth smoking was occurring during a period of rapid growth and limited regulation of e-cigarettes from 2011 to 2015.”

Dr. Graham Moore, a co-author of the report, further stated that after vaping was introduced to pop culture around 2011, anti-smoking biases began plummeting at a much faster rate compared to the previous decade.  For a nation whose goal is to become an entirely smoke-free society by the year 2025, UK public health officials not only endorse electronic cigarettes as a tobacco harm reduction tool, they also promote them as twice as effective as any smoking cessation product on the market. 

Related Article:  UK vape study: In the race to quit smoking, e-cigs beat NRTs by huge margin

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