Research conducted by Neil McKeganey, Marina Barnard and Christopher Russell (on behalf of the Centre for Substance Use Research, Glasgow), indicates that young people who use electronic cigarettes do not succumb to a gateway effect. It also pours cold water on any notion that there is a renormalisation of tobacco cigarettes taking place.
The study, published in the Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy journal, is titled “Vapers and vaping: E-cigarettes users views of vaping and smoking”. The process involved interviewing fifty vapers between the ages of 16 and 26. Twenty-eight were still current smokers, 19 had made the switch and classified themselves as ex-smokers, while 3 had taken up vaping but were never smokers.
Nobody began smoking after taking up starting vaping, and the people in this study don’t believe that they are any more likely to smoke as a result of vaping. The team discovered a general consensus that it made no sense to progress to tobacco smoking when a more pleasurable and safer alternative is available.
McKeganey said: "What is interesting about our research is that the availability of vaping products might be contributing to even worse perceptions of tobacco in this age group. Young people are rationalizing that, because a much less harmful alternative exists, then logically it makes even less sense to consume tobacco."
The team leader went on to add: "What we know is that all vapers are overwhelmingly current and former smokers. We also know that as ecigarette devices have evolved, vaping and smoking have become visually quite distinctive from one another. While some young people we interviewed drew obvious comparisons between the two, namely, inhalation and nicotine consumption, it is clear that, for the most part, they perceive ecigarettes as vastly different from smoking. More importantly, there was overwhelming consensus amongst our participants that vaping is not making smoking more socially acceptable and that, if anything, it is making cigarettes seem even less acceptable."
"What our research shows is that young people clearly perceive ecigarettes for what they are, a less harmful alternative to tobacco. Equally, though, this view does not, as one might assume, directly translate into risk-free in their minds. To the contrary, some interviewees said they were concerned that e-cigarettes might be associated with unknown risks over the longer term, which also tells us that young people are experimenting with a certain degree of caution."
"Regulators need to fully recognise the context in which young people are trying and using ecigarettes and our research does not support alarmist views that vaping will suddenly undo or reverse decades of successful tobacco control. With this in mind, any concerns about youth experimentation must be balanced against the growing body of evidence that demonstrates the increasingly obvious link between ecigarettes and smoking cessation across the population as a whole."
The full study can be downloaded here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09687637.2017.1296933