Vaping as a ‘Gateway’ to Smoking Is Still More Hype Than Hazard

By , University at Buffalo, The State University of New York | September 25, 2015

 

As e-cigarettes become more popular, there has been a push to understand whether they are a “gateway” to regular, combustible cigarettes.

Two recent studies on e-cigarettes as gateways to smoking in teens and young adults have made headlines. And opponents of e-cigarettes have welcomed any crude signal of gateway effects.

As a public health professor with related research and interests in tobacco policy as well as in the complex factors that influence use of tobacco/nicotine products, I want to offer some thoughts on this research. Looking for a gateway effect between e-cigarettes and smoking is understandable. But is it the best question to ask about e-cigarette use? (more…)

More people are combining electronic and regular cigarettes: poll

More people are combining electronic and regular cigarettes: poll

TO GO WITH AFP STORY-US-HEALTH-TOBACCO-YOUTHJIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Ten percent of Americans smoke e-cigarettes, the poll found.

Significantly more Americans are using electronic cigarettes and other vaporizing devices than a year ago, but most of those consumers are also smoking conventional cigarettes, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The findings support evidence that smokers are using both traditional tobacco products and e-cigarettes to deliver nicotine, rather than giving up traditional cigarettes altogether. Researchers are studying many questions about the potential benefits and dangers of e-cigarettes and U.S. health regulators are still working on their first set of rules governing the products.

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E-Cig Use Has Sharply Increased Among Young People

By May Wilkerson 04/20/15

Teens have moved away from traditional cigarettes to vaping in droves.

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While traditional smoking is going out of style among U.S. high school students, e-cigarettes use is rapidly rising.

According to federal data released last week, use of the electronic devices among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, while use of regular tobacco decreased. At 13% of this population, more teens are now using e-cigs than traditional cigarettes.

According to the report, about a quarter of all high school students and 8% of middle schoolers used tobacco in some form last year, contributing to an overall rise in young people using any form of tobacco product in 2014. This is the first increase in years.

But the report also found that tobacco smoking among high schoolers had declined significantly, from 16% in 2011 to 9% in 2014, suggesting that some teen smokers may be using e-cigs to quit.

Policymakers remain uncertain how to regulate e-cigarettes. Scientists do agree that the devices, which deliver nicotine without the added tar and other harmful chemicals, are likely less dangerous than tobacco cigarettes, which kill an estimated 480,000 Americans a year.

But experts are concerned about the growing popularity of e-cigs among teens, since their potential long-term health effects are still unknown. In interviews, teens said that in the last year or so “vaping,” the term for smoking an e-cig, had become almost as common at school as laptops. A 15-year-old sophomore at a school in Westchester, N.Y., estimated that 70% of his friends now vape, calling it “the healthy alternative taking over my school.”

Many students said they were using the devices to quit smoking cigarettes or marijuana, while others said they just enjoy the taste. E-cigs are increasingly marketed to teens, with flavors like “Unicorn Puke” and “Hawk Sauce,” and some brands are endorsed by popular rappers and other celebrities.

Selling e-cigs to minors is illegal in most states and the Food and Drug Administration proposed last year to make it a national ban. But many vape shops have relaxed policies, and teens can easily purchase the devices online simply by clicking “yes” to verify they are over 18.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted a rise in e-cig use by young people, prompting anti-tobacco advocates to warn that the devices would “normalize” smoking and contribute to a resurgence in tobacco use by getting young people hooked on nicotine.

“This is a really bad thing,” said CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. “This is another generation being hooked by the tobacco industry. It makes me angry.”

But the more recent numbers show that tobacco smoking among teenagers is declining faster than it has in years, dropping by 25% between 2013 and 2014. The pattern seems to suggest that the devices may not be a “gateway” to cigarettes, as anti-tobacco advocates predicted, and may instead be helping reduce youth smoking.

“They’re not a gateway in, and they might be accelerating the gateway out,” said David B. Abrams, director of the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies.

Many teenagers agree, describing vaping as “an entirely different culture” from cigarette smoking. “E-cigarettes appeal less towards the stereotypical longhaired stoners, and more towards sweatshirt-blue-jeans Silicon Valley programmer,” said Kenny, a high school senior from Florida. “You can compare them to Apple computers.”

Legislature Avoids Treating Vaping Like Smoking, For Now

The state Senate yesterday unanimously approved HB1186, which was one of two bills emerging from the House aimed at putting some restrictions on sales of vaping products (the other, HB1078, failed).

There are a lot of things to dislike about HB1186. While it bans sales to minors, which isn’t all that controversial, it puts in place a requirement for childproof packaging for the products. That seems unnecessary. But the big victory in passing the legislation is that we’ve avoided lumping vaping products in with traditional tobacco products for the purposes of regulation.

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