The use of e-cigarettes by young people is not a significant gateway to regular smoking, according to a study.
According to a study published in the scientific journal Addiction, the prevalence of e-cigarette use among young adults in England did not appear to be connected with significant increases or declines in the prevalence of smoking uptake between 2007 and 2018.
A probable gateway effect between the use of e-cigarettes and later usage of cigarettes in adolescents has been suggested by several longitudinal observational studies. These findings, however, could represent a shared vulnerability, such that young people who sample e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke cigarettes later.
Using a technique known as time series analysis, one method to prevent this self-selection bias is to examine the impact at the population level rather than the individual level.
The current study used this method to determine the gateway effect of vaping by examining the relationship between the prevalence of e-cigarette usage among young adults and the prevalence of smoking uptake in general, including among persons who had never smoked.
If a gateway effect occurred, the researchers reasoned, there should be population-wide variations in the prevalence of smoking uptake as the prevalence of vaping varied. Changes in e-cigarette prevalence should not be associated with changes in young adult smoking uptake if a gateway effect does not exist.
Among individuals aged 16 to 24, the authors observed no statistically significant link between the prevalence of e-cigarette usage and ever having smoked regularly (used as an indicator of uptake). The authors employed Bayes factors and robustness areas to better explain this finding.
Bayes factors can be used to determine if a non-significant result indicates that there is no difference or that the study was insufficiently sensitive to detect an effect. The size of an effect that can be discounted is identified by robustness areas.
The authors were able to rule out a large-scale gateway effect from e-cigarette usage to smoking uptake, but they were unable to rule out very modest effects for a gateway into or out of smoking (where e-cigarette use makes it less likely that young people start to smoke).
Dr. Emma Beard, the study’s lead author, says, “These data show that previous research’ substantial gateway effects, particularly among those aged 18 to 24, can be ruled out. However, a minor gateway effect cannot be ruled out, because we did not explore younger age groups.
If the top estimates are correct, we predict that roughly 7,000 of the 74 thousand e-cigarette users aged 16 to 17 in England will become regular smokers as a result of their e-cigarette usage. Simultaneously, some 50 thousand smokers are anticipated to quit each year as a result of e-cigarette use “…
The main author, Professor Lion Shahab, says, “Given the differing guidance given by health agencies and governments in different nations, these findings are critical.
To date, evidence suggests that e-cigarettes are less dangerous than tobacco and can assist smokers in quitting. Although any risk from vaping cannot be ruled out, this research implies that there is minimal evidence of a significant gateway effect into smoking.”