The whole “what came first? The chicken or the egg” conundrum often misses the point. Why does it matter what came first? Is it about placing blame? Chickens (and, by extension, eggs?) get a bad rap. Or is it the other way around?
ANYWAY, the same circuitous argument is a constant in the vaping industry. Smoking is bad. It is unhealthy. We can all agree on that, right? There’s no “what came first?” argument here… smoking came first. Then vaping. Did smoking lead to vaping? For all intents and purposes, yes… yes it did.
From a harm reduction perspective, however, the vaping vs. smoking argument is ongoing, which is why vaping education and discussion are so important. That said, what many are concerned about and focused on now, is whether or not one leads to the other. More specifically, is vaping a gateway to smoking for teens?
The discussion and research have been batted back and forth constantly, helping pave the way for continued education and insight around the issues. Recently, studies and trends in the UK seem to suggest that while the two activities (vaping and smoking) are definitely correlative (meaning that people who smoke often vape, and people who vape often smoke), there is little proof that one causes the other.
The reason? To date, most of the studies and research only examine smoking rates in people who have vaped versus those who haven’t.
“It could be the case that there’s a common vulnerability that explains this association. That could be, for instance, because there’s some genetic predisposition to try different things or there’s environmental pressures to try things,” says Lion Shahab at University College London in a recent New Scientist article.
As a result, changing the data set seemed in order. According to the article, instead of examining the likelihood of smoking, the researchers studied the rate of smoking within a certain demographic, and examined how that has changed over the past decade or more, as vaping has become more popular.
The logic: To discover a “gateway effect,” smoking and vaping rates should change in a related pattern.
The result: Vaping among 16- to 24-year-olds increased around five percent in 2013, a rate that has stayed approximately the same ever since. Whereas smoking rates within the same demo have fallen from around 30 percent in 2013, to 25 percent in 2018.
In other words: One grew (vaping). One shrank (smoking).
Still, whether there’s a gateway effect or not, the concern remains: People (younger people) who have never smoked are trying products with nicotine in them. Is this based on genetic predisposition? Will vaping/having access to nicotine lead to a more harmful smoking habit? It seems like the jury is still out, but let’s keep the discussion going. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.