New Study: Vaping Gateway to Smoking? No, It Never Was

Anyone who has been vaping long enough will admit the vaping industry can sometimes feel like a house of cards that is ready to topple anytime. Or a little child’s bicycle being ridden by dozens of clowns, all perched atop each other’s shoulders and out of balance.

How long before they tumble? That’s anyone’s guess.

There just seems to be this lot out to ruin it for everyone by coming up with all sorts of cracked, mindboggling theories. Cracked is such an ugly word to use on anyone but how else can we describe some of their misinformed concepts that leave you wondering how someone would concoct them in the first place, and if indeed, we ought to bundle these beings in the ‘intelligent life’ category.

Then again, trolls too are very much alive.

Anyway, just when it looked like the industry could do with some sense of soberness, out comes another study that dismantles those hairbrained theories by anti-vape enthusiasts, crushing them to dust.

And so it was this week.

The target this time? – that oft-peddled vexing hypothesis that vaping is a gateway to smoking, especially for teens.

The False Gateway

The most recent study rubbishing these claims was courtesy of two public health researchers, lead author Lynn Kozlowski (a professor of community health and health behavior at the University of Buffalo) and Kenneth Warner (the Avedis Donabedian Distinguished University Professor of the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health).

And their findings, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, were clear: No, the argument that vaping leads to smoking is wrong.

Just plain wrong.

Kozlowski goes on to confirm what we knew all along: overall smoking rates have drastically dwindled as more and more smokers start to embrace the use of electronic cigarettes.

What’s also worth noting with this study is that it did not focus on any one control group followed by researchers for eons. It was based off cold hard figures of national trends whose analysis, according to Kozlowski, was focused on one main thing in particular: the probability of using e-cigarettes as a gateway to future smoking.

Perhaps it’s good to remind ourselves the source of these gateway claims.

The first gateway models can be traced back to the 1950s courtesy of – you guessed it! – drug enforcement authorities. At the time, they warned that the use of marijuana led to deadly heroin use (but you and I both know better). Over time though, this has been found to be nothing but a myth.

Just as the first taste of lager may lead one to like it (or not), and might be the catalyst behind their trying a stout down the line (or not), prior use of one particular nicotine product may lead one to try other nicotine-based products (or not).


In the paper, the researchers also tore into studies that purport the use of e-cigs leads to smoking among teens, highlighting a number of shortcomings with findings that try to show any relation between vaping and subsequent smoking.

According to Warner, not a single one of those studies was formulated with the aim of pursuing ‘smoking intensity’ at a later time, what with ambiguous measures such as ‘at least one puff in the last 6 months’.

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You can think of this in the context of a study that aims to show taking at least one bite of an apple in the past 6 months would be a good enough measure (and compelling enough reason) to kickstart the habit of apple consumption.

Warner goes on to say the evidence presented by such studies is ‘weak at best’ (of which it is) because by and large, what these studies do is establish the existence of a link between teens who vape and future experimentation with smoking.

He adds that assuming there was even a small gateway effect, it would be absolutely swamped by the overall trend which is leaning towards less preference for smoking.

Conflicting Information

As if these findings alone were not enough egg on the face of vaping antagonists, the pair seemed to come to the consensus that electronic cigarettes are less dangerous than tobacco sticks if the ‘best evidence to date’ is anything to go by.

However, they did admit there is confusion surrounding this topic of health safety, and this is largely thanks to the sea of inaccurate information being floated around, a fact likely playing a hand in the reluctance of some adult smokers to have e-cigs – this time – act as the gateway to quit smoking.

This latest report only reinforces the findings of a recent study carried out by the Virginia Commonwealth University at the start of the year.

And it keeps piling up.

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