Study: Vaping is a Gateway Out of (Not Into) Smoking

Findings from a review published recently in the International Journal of Drug Policy, by Australian academics Colin Mendelsohn and Wayne Hall, has indicated that vaping diverts young people away from smoking, rather than towards.

In line with previous studies looking into the same relationship, the review titled, “Does the gateway theory justify a ban on nicotine vaping in Australia?,” debunked the infamous Gateway Theory, which is one of the major arguments that Australian authorities use to justify the local ban on nicotine vaping products.

Review authors Colin Mendelsohn and Wayne Hall pointed out that a more plausible explanation as to why young people who vape are more likely to smoke, are personality factors. This means that those teens who vape are risk-takers and are therefore also more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, use cannabis and other substances, as well have unprotected sex. This argument has already been emphasized by other experts in multiple studies.

The Key findings from the present study were as follows:

  • “Smoking usually precedes vaping. At least 70-85% of teen smokers try vaping after having already started smoking.
  • Most vaping by adolescents is experimental and infrequent
  • Regular vaping is rare among non-smokers. Regular vaping by non-smokers is generally 1% or less in Australian and international surveys.
  • Many adolescent vapers use flavourings only and do not use nicotine. Nicotine addiction is rare in vapers who don’t smoke. In the US, <4% of non-smoking youth who vape have symptoms of nicotine dependence.
  • Some adolescents use vaping to quit smoking.
  • Youth smoking rates have declined rapidly in the UK and US since the introduction of vaping, making it very unlikely that is increasing youth smoking. It is more likely that vaping is diverting some high-risk teens away from smoking to a safer alternative

The current nicotine ban would remain unjustified even if a “Gateway Effect” were observed

The researchers pointed out that ultimately, even if the evidence for a relationship between vaping and smoking were stronger, a nicotine ban would not be justified as there are more productive ways to prevent teen vaping other than a ban. However, in the absence of such evidence, the authors suggest an alternative regulatory model for Australia “that would address legitimate concerns about preventing adolescent uptake while allowing adult smokers to access these products for cessation or as an alternative to smoking cigarettes.”