There we go again with the gateway theory, a hypothesis that keeps being brought by the anti-vaping movement, even though it has been proven unsound each time. This latest study called, Flavored Electronic Cigarette Use and Smoking Among Youth, brings forward results from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

The researchers investigate the association between non-smokers and their desire to smoke, and smokers and their intentions to quit amongst youth who vape and those who don’t, and the differences in the perceived dangers from tobacco between the two groups. From the conducted research it was concluded that flavored e-cigarettes, “may increase teens’ taste for smoking”.

In a press release the publisher of Pediatrics, stated, “New research shows the use of electronic cigarettes with flavors such as gummy bear and bubble gum among U.S. middle- and high-school students may serve as a gateway for future smoking.” adding, “The study … suggests use of these products increases young people’s intentions to begin smoking… .

Where the error lies

Professor at the Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, Dr. Michael Siegel discussed the above in his blog and pointed out why this study is inaccurate and misleading. It makes the mistake of “assuming that correlation in a cross-sectional study equals causation”.

Dr. Siegel points out how this is another example of the bias against e-cigs, where instead of presenting evidence, researchers are presenting their “biased interpretations”
This means that the fact that there is a link between the use of flavoured e-cigs and a higher tendency to want to smoke, does not prove that individuals who vape are more likely to smoke as it could easily be the other way round, perhaps individuals who are open to the idea of smoking are also more willing to try e-cigarettes. Clearly it could go both ways.

The paper itself acknowledged that  “the data are cross-sectional; thus, we were unable to establish causal inferences,” however the study still referred to the gateway theory.

The dangers of published biased opinions

Dr. Siegel points out how this is another evident and unfortunate example of the bias against electronic cigarettes, where instead of presenting evidence, researchers are presenting their “biased interpretations”. It has been pointed out that this kind of misleading data is a bigger threat than the harsh regulations that the vaping industry is facing.

Condemning data unfortunately spreads like wildfire, and in this case may stop current smokers from considering the proven safer alternatives, whilst encouraging misinformed individuals to support the harsh regulations that are threatening to decimate the industry that has tobacco harm reduction at heart.


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