Is vaping a gateway to smoking?
Currently in the UK, the amount of young adults/youths that are current users of e-cigarettes is at the highest figure it has ever been. One of the main reasons for this increase in numbers is current trends appearing and gaining popularity, such as Disposable Vapes.
Anti-vaping campaigners and groups are saying that this rise in youths/young people vaping is creating an easy gateway to then start smoking cigarettes, but is this really the case? Let’s look at this in more detail…
Youth vaping statistics
Action on Smoking and Health conduct yearly surveys with specific groups to get an understanding and insight into the behaviours and attitudes of adults, young adults and youths when it comes to smoking and the use of e-cigarettes amongst these groups. ASH’s reports are always fantastic and filled to the brim with accurate data and statistics that people can trust have not been tampered with.
In their most recent survey conducted in 2022, they asked a group of 11–17-year-olds to gauge the use of e-cigarettes amongst the demographic, as well as the amount of them that smoked cigarettes.
A large majority of the group admitted they had never used an e-cigarette (83.8%) which is good to see, however the number of regular users of E-Cigarettes has increased and it’s reported that 3.1% of all respondents aged 11-17 regularly used e-cigarettes.
Moving on, and a bit more of an interesting statistic appears. It was shown in the report that the use of e-cigarettes amongst current smokers aged 11–17-year-olds was the highest percentage, with 55.4% of respondents who are current smokers admitting they used e-cigarettes either frequently, or occasionally. This is an important statistic on the focus point of this article of which I will follow on with a bit further down.
Looking at the order of use between tobacco and e-cigarettes, and the number of youths smoking before vaping has decreased, right down to just 35.6% which ASH says is the lowest the number has been in the history of the survey. The proportion of 11-17 year olds trying e-cigarettes first has decreased to 18.8% whereas it was 24.5% in 2021.
The cause of the rise in E-cigarette usage amongst youths
ASH took a look in more detail into what vaping devices were being used by the 11-17 year olds being questioned, and it’s not really going to come as any surprise to what the top answer is if you’re up to speed on current vaping trends and fads…Disposable vapes.
A whopping 52% of 11–17-year-olds admitted they used a Disposable vape as their device of choice, which is nearly SEVEN times more than the amount the year previous. I expected the number to increase with the popularity rising so much, but not quite that drastic.
This likely ties in with the other questions ASH asked in relation to why 11-17 year olds have tried an e-cigarette or why they use them, as the answers of “I think they look cool” “I like the flavours” and “Other people use them so I want to join in”
Disposable vapes have had a lot of criticism due to the packaging being so bright and vibrant and indirectly appealing to a younger audience, and the flavours of these Disposable vapes are all sweet, fruity flavours with some even inspired by popular sweets or drinks brands, making it even more appealing to a young audience.
I’ve previously written an article about the problem with youth vaping, and the trouble Disposables are causing on this matter, which you can read HERE
Vaping creating a gateway to smoking, true or false?
Now we come to the topic in question of this article, does vaping really cause a gateway to starting to smoke?
A lot of anti-vaping campaigners are fixated on the fact that young people who used an e-cigarette will then go on to smoke cigarettes, and Vaping is the primary gateway to smoking. But is this really true? There has been a lot of studies from different groups that have looked in to this topic, and I’m going to use a few to dissect and see what the general consensus is.
Looking at the statistics above, and referring back to the point I said I was going to, 55.4% of 11–17-year-olds asked were current smokers as well as using an e-cigarette, so vaping has definitely not been a gateway for those asked as they’d previously been smoking prior to engaging in using an e-cigarette.
The biggest cause for concern over young people using an e-cigarette if they have not previously smoked, is forming an addiction to nicotine by using vape juice that contains nicotine. Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical, and an addiction and even dependency on it can be easily created after frequent use.
This fact is being clung on to by anti-vaping campaigners with them believing that young people will form an addiction to nicotine and then turn to smoking cigarettes to get a stronger, faster hit of nicotine. I do understand where they are coming from with this belief, but I don’t think it’s actual fact that it will commonly happen.
Smoking trend statistics do not match up
We now come on to the concluding section of this article, and arguably the most interesting part which is looking at the statistics of smoking trends amongst young adults and compare them to the use of e-cigarettes amongst the youth population. Because if Vaping is really a huge gateway to smoking later in life, the statistics of young people vaping to the amount of young adults smoking would match up and see an increase, right? Well, not quite.
A team of experts based at the University College in London took a look at the facts and figures regarding the rate of smoking amongst 16 to 24 year olds in England and looked how they differed and varied from when Vaping first started gaining traction.
The rate of people within this age demographic who vaped has remained around the same number for the last few years, around 6 to 7% total. But interestingly, the number of smokers in this group have fallen year on year and are actually down by about 30% in total. I find this really fascinating, and it’s something which cannot be overlooked.
The experts did say that Vaping may cause a very small gateway to the prospect of young people taking up smoking cigarettes, which in some way I agree with as I don’t agree that it is this huge gateway like some of the sceptics make it out to be.