By Kim Polacek
People who use e-cigarette products are more likely to start smoking cigarettes. That has long been the belief among the general public. There are even research studies to back those claims. However, a new study published this week in Nicotine & Tobacco Research suggests otherwise. The study found that while vaping may make teenagers more likely to try cigarettes, it did not increase the odds that those teens would eventually become smokers.
The study, led by Sanford Health in South Dakota, looked at survey responses from more than 12,000 middle and high school students in the United States. The goal was to examine the relationship between e-cigarette use and conventional smoking. The researchers used a complex statistical method to account for demographic and behavioral information to produce less-biased results.
Before taking into account the demographic and behavioral information, the use of e-cigarettes dramatically increased a person’s odds of becoming a regular smoker. But that figure was drastically reduced when the researchers accounted for 14 shared risk factors, such as alcohol use and hanging out with others who smoke or vape. In other words, it appears that the teens who started smoking after vaping were at risk of smoking regardless of vaping.
“The study has limitations, but it is consistent with the population-level data that indicate that adolescent smoking keeps falling despite — and maybe because of — the rise in e-cigarette use in that population. It does provide some balanced perspective to the headlines we are now seeing about youth vaping,” said Dr. Thomas Brandon, chair of the Health Outcomes & Behavior Department and director of the Tobacco Research and Intervention Program at Moffitt Cancer Center.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Arielle Selya, told CNN that “standard statistics, which are used in most studies out there, are biased when it comes to looking at the effects of e-cigarettes,” and adding that any “knee-jerk reaction” to regulate vaping products could actually push teenagers to smoke cigarettes.