‘Gateway’ Questioned

Vaping does not raise the likelihood a teenager will smoke, according to a new U.S. study by Arielle Selya at Sanford Research in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Sooyong Kim at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

Smoking can be entirely attributable to other factors, such as parental education, peer smoking, anxiety and other substance abuse, the authors found.

The study examined the relationship between vaping and conventional cigarette smoking, looking at 14 shared risk factors, based on surveys of more than 12,000 middle schoolers and high schoolers conducted in 2015 and 2016.

While the vapers were more likely to smoke cigarettes, the effect was muted once the analysis accounted for risk factors that are shared between the two activities. However, the researchers did find an association between vaping and lifetime cigarette use and said further study is needed to determine if there is a causal link.

Earlier research, such as a 2018 study from the University of California, San Francisco, linked vaping to “established cigarette smoking” in adolescents. The new study has a simple explanation for that apparent link: People who tend to vape may just be more similar to those who tend to smoke.

Lead author Selya said her research undermines the “gateway hypothesis” that vaping leads to smoking. She cautioned against regulating vapor products as combustible cigarettes, which could push teenagers back to smoking.

The study was published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, a scientific journal whose publisher doesn’t accept funding from the tobacco industry.