Earlier this week a study looking at the link between electronic cigarettes and smoking was once again severely over stated in the press.
Headlines shouted “Vaping is a gateway to smoking” and “Teens who vape six times more likely to smoke cigarettes”.
Doctors and tobacco harm experts are today hitting out at these claims, “The authors seem to argue that trying one puff of an e-cigarette caused some young people to try tobacco smoking within the next 16 months,” said Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction at King’s College London.
“If so, we would be seeing large increases in tobacco smoking, but instead we are seeing marked declines in youth tobacco smoking since e-cigarettes came on the market,” McNeill added. “This suggests e-cigarettes are actually helping young people not to smoke tobacco cigarettes (something this study did not even consider).”
The study took a survey of 300 17 year olds in California who had never smoked tobacco. Then 16 months later the same group of adolescents took the survey again. The conclusion was made that those who had tried an electronic cigarette were six times more likely to make the transition to regular tobacco products.
There are several glaring flaws in this type of study.
The teenagers who answered questions were not under any obligation to give an answer that was true, sat with a researcher some participants will have given a false answer during the initial survey.
The sample of participants is extremely small and only from one area, limiting the reliability of the study.
There is no information on what type of e-cig the participants tried or what the nicotine content was.
At no point does this study take into account the susceptibility of the participants to use regular tobacco products regardless of whether they had tried an e-cig in the past.
The rate of teen smoking in the UK is low and continuing to fall, when an unreliable study becomes big vaping ‘news’, we have to ask ourselves what potential damage these ‘studies’ can inflict in the long run?
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