UK public health study: Vaping is a roadblock (not a gateway) to smoking

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently considering a ban on kid-appealing flavored e-liquids, a public health organization in Great Britain seems to be taking a different point of view.   In fact, the UK Centre For Substance Use Research has recently published a report claiming that vaping is a roadblock rather than a gateway to teen smoking. 

According to FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb, e-liquids with names like cotton candy and gummy bear are simply too tempting for kids to pass up, which increases their chances of becoming addicted to smoking in the future.  Apparently, today’s teenagers and their parents are simply too thoughtless to realize on their own that the carcinogenic smoke of tobacco cigarettes is deadly even though the FDA has been making these claims loudly and continuously for nearly fifty years.   So – to nip the problem in the bud once and for all - the FDA is now considering a total ban on all flavored e-liquids entirely.

Smoking versus vaping:  Britain gives teens more credit than the USA

Meanwhile across the pond, representatives from the UK Centre For Substance Use Research decided to take this gateway debate directly to the teenage population.  In a series of interviews with thousands of young people between the ages of 16 to 25 across Great Britain and Scotland, the researchers determined that British youth are more likely to avoid smoking rather than be drawn to it, especially after experimenting with electronic cigarettes.

"’There was very little indication amongst the young people interviewed that e-cigarettes were resulting in an increased likelihood of young people smoking,’ said Dr Neil McKeganey who led the research. ‘In fact the majority we interviewed, including those who were vaping, perceived smoking in very negative terms and saw vaping as being entirely different to smoking.’”

In the report entitled, E-cigarettes: Gateway or roadblock to cigarette smoking, one teen being interviewed used the common-sense approach to determine that the recent rise in popularity of vaping technology essentially makes the far-less-healthier tobacco cigarette significantly less popular overall.

"I think if vaping becomes more common, then smoking is going to become more uncommon because it's the aspect of quitting. I think vaping will replace smoking."

Another young Brit made a similar assertion.

"I think vaping is having an effect on smoking cigarettes in that it's taking away from it. People are moving off cigarettes and moving onto vaping."

And when one UK youngster was asked specifically if vaping would lead to an increase in smoking rates in the coming years, the response was very encouraging. 

"I think it's usually people who are trying to stop smoking who vape. I mean there is the odd person who does it because it's cool and that might influence them to want to try smoking, but I think on the whole it's the other way round. It's people vaping who have given up smoking."

Of course, anti-vaping lobbyists tend to ignore such research as that from the UK Centre For Substance Use Research.  After all, it’s not really “research” but more of a survey.  But one of the co-authors of the survey also uncovered some rather alarming news during the interview process that warrants further investigation.

Some – but not all- of the teen interviewees were under the mistaken impression that vaping is just as hazardous to one’s health as smoking.  So, some teens wondered that if both are equally harmful, then why would anyone want to switch to vaping in the first place?  Tobacco products are more readily available for purchase, even to teenagers. 

"What was apparent is that this persistent view, expressed by some young people, that vaping was just as harmful as smoking, was resulting in some young people continuing to smoke when they might otherwise have quit."
"But what was equally clear from our research is that the much debated 'Gateway' theory is not materialising. There was nothing to suggest that youngsters see vaping as a stepping stone to smoking -- quite the opposite."
-Neil McKeganey, leader of the UK Centre For Substance Use Research survey


Neither the scientists nor the majority of young adults participating in the study believe that electronic cigarettes are 100 percent harm-free.  One student even pointed out that it took the medical community nearly forty years before they admitted to smoking being carcinogenic.  Who knows what they will discover in another forty years.  However, if the current data is to be believed, vaping is significantly healthier than smoking, even to the 16-year olds participating in the UK survey.  So, why is the FDA having such a difficult time understanding the same concept?   

Related Article: FDA flavor ban will only increase Big Tobacco sales, says Yale Economist

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