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Are e-Cigs a Stepping Stone to Smoking?

October 10, 2016 by  
Filed under Health, Money/Business, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.comE-Cigarettes are known to be a great tool for people wanting to kick the habit of smoking. But what about recreational vapers who use e-cigarettes without a prior nicotine addiction? Could vaping be a gateway to traditional smoking? Several studies currently claim that e-cigarette use, especially among teenagers, could indeed lead to traditional tobacco smoking. But are those claims founded? Let’s take a closer look.

The Gateway Theory

The gateway theory in drug usage is, as its name suggest, a hypothesis. It has been studied and reassessed by many for several decades. The premise of the theory is that the use of a gateway drug, or a drug that is not of potential danger, will inevitably lead to an increased risk of progressing to another, more serious drug. While1230-black-man-e-cig seemingly valid at first, several parties have argued that this idea has been used as political propaganda to scare the public from using cannabis. They also say that there is no conclusive evidence that its usage is causally linked to future harder drug usage.

People who are currently opposed to vaping are fast at drawing similar conclusions. They claim that the use of devices such as V2 Cigs or JUUL could be a gateway to smoking regular cigarettes. Studies are currently claiming that teenagers who have used electronic cigarettes are six times more likely to take on smoking than those who haven’t. Although drawing parallels between the two could seem like an easy conclusion, the reality is otherwise.

Correlation is Not Causation

The counter-argument to the gateway theory in the case of drug usage is that correlation does not confirm a cause. In other words, it is not because there is a correlation between two things that one necessarily leads to the other. Scientists agree that, while there is indeed a relation between hard drug use and marijuana use, it is not in itself valid proof that marijuana use is what leads to the use of harder drugs. What it merely does is show marijuana as the most commonly used drug.

To draw a parallel, we could all agree that not everyone who has a sip of alcohol as a young adult becomes an alcoholic later in life. Making such a causal inference doesn’t seem so valid when applied to a different scenario.

Likewise, jumping to the conclusion that young people who try a vaping pen will become smokers is largely unfounded. In 2015, research papers presented case studies in which groups of non-smoking teenagers were followed over the course of a year. The studies conclude that a slightly higher number of youth who had tried vaping at the beginning of the study would later have at least one puff of a traditional cigarette than those who had not. In many cases, the title of the study claims that vaping is clearly linked to an increased chance of taking on smoking. However easy it is to draw this conclusion, one puff of a cigarette does not make someone a smoker.

What the Studies Don’t Show

The studies chiefly focus on the percentage of teens who have tried vaping and don’t make mention the frequency of use. Little is said in terms of how many are recreational e-cigarette users versus how many are daily vapers — the latter potentially more likely to getting hooked on nicotine and later progress to traditional cigarettes. Not defining these parameters more clearly inflates the percentage of likelihood to take on smoking after vaping.

There is also no mention of nicotine-free e-liquids. We can safely assume that people who have never smoked before are unlikely to use an e-juice containing nicotine when they start vaping. It is difficult to imagine why someone would want to risk getting addicted to a substance that offers no additional experiential value, as nicotine doesn’t add anything to the enjoyment of vaping. And in the improbable case that they did, it would be a strange decision to want to move on to something that is more expensive, smells bad and doesn’t come in such a wide variety of flavors.

Despite all the bad press vaping has received following the recent FDA regulations, e-cigarettes are not the enemy. Vaping offers a lot of smokers a solution from years of tobacco addiction, and the decline in traditional smoking versus the rise in vaping make us conclude that no, vaping is not a gateway to smoking.

Staff Writer; Larry Stone

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