Vaping not a gateway to smoking tobacco, says study

Restrictions on vaping products to be considered

Vaping does not act as a gateway into smoking, according to ‘the most comprehensive study’ into the topic.

Research led by Queen Mary University of London and funded by the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) suggests there is no sign that e-cigarettes products promote smoking.

It also found some evidence that these products compete against cigarettes. As a result, it may be speeding up the demise of smoking – however, this finding is only tentative. Researchers said more data is needed to determine the size of this effect.

The study compared the time course of use and sales of electronic cigarettes with that of smoking rates and cigarette sales in countries with historically similar smoking trajectories, but differing current e-cigarette regulations.

For example, it compared the UK and United States with Australia, where sales of nicotine containing e-cigarettes are banned. It also looked at interactions between smoking and nicotine alternatives that are popular in other countries. This included the use of oral nicotine pouches in Sweden.

Researchers note that because people may use both cigarettes and alternative products, prevalence figures for these products overlap. As a result, longer time periods are needed to determine any effects of exclusive use of the new products on smoking prevalence.

They also say that the indications that alternative nicotine products are replacing smoking need to be confirmed when more data becomes available.

Alleviate concern

Professor Peter Hajek, director of health and lifestyle research unit, Wolfson Institute of Population Health, at Queen Mary University of London, said: ‘The results of this study alleviate the concern that access to e-cigarettes and other low-risk nicotine products promote smoking.

‘There is no sign of that, and there are some signs that they in fact compete against cigarettes, but more data over a longer time period [is] needed to determine the size of this effect.’

Professor Lion Shahab, co-author and co-director of the UCL Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, added: ‘This comprehensive analysis provides reassurance that countries which have adopted a more progressive stance towards e-cigarettes have not seen a detrimental impact on smoking rates.

‘If anything, the results suggest that – more likely than not – e-cigarettes have displaced harmful cigarettes in those countries so far. However, as this is fast moving field, with new technologies entering the market every year, it remains important to continue monitoring national data.’

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