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As unfounded claims of vaping as a gateway to smoking persist, Aussie scientists strike back

Vaping is under constant attack by politicians and lawmakers beholden to the financial contributions of Big Tobacco and Big Pharma.  One of the most often repeated yet grossly dishonest arguments of anti-vaping activists revolves around the disproven hypothesis that teen vaping leads to adult smoking. 

In fact, researchers associated with the Pediatrics medical journal are still claiming as recently as December 2020 that teenagers who vape and have no intention of ever becoming smokers are predisposed to become adult users of combustible tobacco whether they like it or not.  In the study entitled Smoking Intention and Progression from E-Cigarette Use to Cigarette Smoking, lead co-author Olusegun Owotomo of the Children’s Hospital in Washington, DC, issues the following statement based on highly suspect data dating back almost a decade.

“E-cigarette use is associated with increased odds of cigarette smoking among adolescents who had no previous smoking intention. E-cigarette use may create intention to smoke and/or nicotine use disorder that lead to onset of cigarette smoking.

A similar report recently surfaced in the European Union.  Despite reams of evidence to the contrary, the EU report entitled Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) not only supports the “vaping is a gateway” theory but also makes the unfounded assertion that vaping does not even help smokers quit.  The latter argument has been overwhelmingly disproven in countless research papers and further supported by millions of public testaments from former adult smokers-turned-vapers.

Australian scientists debunk vaping gateway theory yet again

While the United States and parts of Europe have always had a terrible time accepting the public health science surrounding vaping, many other countries openly embrace electronic cigarettes as a safer and more effective alternative to Big Pharma stop-smoking aids like nicotine patches and gums. 

For several years now, public health officials of New Zealand and the United Kingdom, for example, have endorsed and even promoted vaping products as a smoking cessation aids.  And both nations are experiencing historic lows in adult smoking rates without witnessing strong increases in teen vaping. 

Related Article:  What politicians aren’t telling you about vaping: Teen smoking rates at all-time lows

Australia is still debating the issue of vaping advocacy, and scientists Colin Mendelsohn and Wayne Hall are working aggressively to convince Aussie lawmakers to fight for the right to vape.  In their recently published paper entitled, Does the gateway theory justify a ban on nicotine vaping in Australia?, Mendelsohn and Hall completely rip the gateway theory to shreds.

“The association between nicotine vaping and cigarette smoking provides weak support for a gateway hypothesis. Smoking more often precedes vaping than vice versa, regular vaping by never-smokers is rare and the association is more plausibly explained by a common liability model. If there is a gateway effect, it is small at the population level because smoking prevalence has continued to decline despite an increased uptake of vaping in countries that allow it.
 
“Even if the evidence for a gateway hypothesis were stronger, it would not justify a ban on the sale of nicotine vaping products to adults. More proportionate regulatory policies could minimize youth uptake while allowing adult smokers to access these products for cessation or as a lower risk substitute for cigarette smoking.”
 

In other words, Mendelsohn and Hall point out that the teenage years have always been filled with good, old-fashioned experimentation and pushing against parental boundaries.  From drinking beer to having sex and, yes, even smoking, teenagers will always experiment from now until the end of time.  The question is:  Would public health officials rather they experiment with vaping or with the smoking of highly carcinogenic combustible tobacco? 

Other key findings of the Mendelsohn and Hall report include:

  • Regardless of age, smoking usually precedes vaping…not the other way around.
  • Most adolescent vaping is very infrequent and often only is experimental.
  • Data shows that an estimated 70-85% of teen vapers had already tried the occasional smoking of tobacco cigarettes and want to quit or at least limit their carcinogenic exposure by switching to occasional vaping instead.
  • Regular daily teen vapers are extremely rare (about one-percent, according to numerous international surveys), especially among teenage non-smokers.
  • A substantial percentage of infrequent teen vapers use zero-nicotine e-liquids. Just like generations of underage smokers before them, teen vapers are temporarily attracted to the social “alure” of vaping.
  • In the U.S., less than four-percent of non-smoking teen vapers have symptoms of nicotine dependence.
  • Furthermore, many adolescents use vaping to quit smoking.

Even in the United States, adult smoking rates are at all-time lows.  Meanwhile, teenage use of electronic cigarettes is on a steady and rapid decline according to the CDC. These two statistics alone prove that the so-called “gateway theory” is total and utter hogwash.

Related Article: Did the CDC just confirm that vaping is NOT a gateway to teen smoking?

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