With the media breathlessly reporting on the recent University of Southern California study that “proves” that e-cigs are a gateway to smoking, very few people have bothered to ask a simple question: What proof?
According to ABC News:
Researchers from the University of Southern California followed two groups of high school juniors and seniors (about 300 in total) who had never smoked cigarettes before. The groups were nearly identical in most regards except for one crucial difference; one group of teens used e-cigarettes and the other did not. An average of 16 months later, 40 percent of the e-cig users went on to start smoking cigarettes, compared to only 10 percent of the non-e-cig users. At the beginning of the study, the investigators asked the teens if they had a firm commitment to not smoke cigarettes. Amongst the teens who said they did not want to go on to smoke cigarettes, those who used e-cigs had a greater odds of going on to smoke cigarettes.
One of the best rebuttals to this extremely flawed study comes from the UK’s National Health Service. If you aren’t already aware, the UK is home to the most pro-vaping government in the world. Their Prime Minister has came out in support of vaping and their publicly funded healthcare system offers prescription e-cigs (of the disposable variety) for smokers who are trying to quit.
In a recent post on their website, they provided a point-by-point breakdown that lays out the flaws in the premature anti-vaping conclusions to this study that have been reported in most of the mainstream media outlets.
From the NHS:
This prospective cohort study found adolescents who used e-cigarettes were more likely to go on to use combustible tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars and pipes than those who never used e-cigarettes.
But the strength of these findings is limited by a number of factors:
The study design is not able to prove the use of e-cigarettes is responsible for progression to smoking. However, the researchers did attempt to investigate susceptibility in both e-cigarette users and non-users.
The sample of participants was small, from a particular age group and from one location, reducing the reliability and generalisability of the findings.
No information was collected on the type of e-cigarette used or nicotine content.
A large number of participants were lost to follow-up – whether these teens went on to smoke or not would have altered the results.
The initial grouping of participants into users and non-users was based on their responses to a questionnaire completed with a researcher. Students may have felt the need to give responses they felt were more appropriate, rather than accurate.
It would be amazing if our government here in the States would be as supportive of vaping as the UK government is. But if we can’t get a supportive government, I’d be happy to settle for one that isn’t completely hostile to vaping.