For the first time, there are more young people who begin to use nicotine through vaping rather than through cigarettes, according to new research from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).
“We now have a shift such that there are more ‘never smokers’ who vape than established smokers,” said MUSC Hollings Cancer Center researcher Benjamin Toll, director of the MUSC Health Tobacco Treatment Program, in a statement. “That is a massive shift in the landscape of tobacco. These ‘never smokers’ are unlikely to start smoking combustible cigarettes—they’re likely to vape and keep vaping. And it’s this group, ages 18 to 24, who are going to forecast future e-cigarette users.”
The research team used data from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study, a nationally representative longitudinal survey that’s a collaborative effort between the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The survey started in 2013, and so far, there have been six waves of data collection.
The sixth wave, consisting of survey answers from 2021, wasn’t widely available at the time the researchers completed their work. They gained access to the restricted data prior to its public release through the National Addiction and HIV Data Archive Program at the University of Michigan.
The Wave 6 data showed a continuing upward trend in vaping—and found that a majority of young adults who regularly vape, 56 percent, have never regularly smoked cigarettes.
A total of 14.5 percent of adults aged 18 to 24 reported regular use of e-cigarettes, according to the PATH Study—a figure that is higher than a previous Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report of 11 percent. Toll expects that the next wave of PATH Study data, scheduled for release in the fall of 2024, will show an even greater increase.