In line with the infamous “Gateway Theory”, a recent study, published last month in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, and based on the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health, claimed that teens who had experimented with an “electronic nicotine delivery system” (ENDS), were three times as likely than those who hadn’t to have smoked a cigarette by the time of the next survey in 2014-15.

The researchers analyzed a sample of about 12,000 12-to-17-year-olds and came to the conclusion that “ever ENDS use predicts future cigarette smoking.” However is this claim accurate? Any scientist would tell you that a correlation does not mean causation.

Teens who are experimenters are likely to try different tobacco products

Discussing the study on his blog, renowned public health professor Michael Siegel noted, “This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that youth who try e-cigarettes and do not particularly enjoy them such that they become regular users are the ones who are more likely to try smoking, but that youth who actually become vapers are not any more likely to subsequently try a real cigarette.”

Siegel calculated that of the participants, only 21 never-smoking teenagers who reported any past-month vaping in the first survey had tried cigarettes by the second survey, and the study did not even clarify whether these were regular vapers or whether any of them had became regular smokers. “It is possible that vaping was not a gateway to smoking for any of these 21 youth,” he said.

Vaping is more likely to act as a diversion from smoking, than other way round

The public health expert concluded that the only thing that this study actually proved, is that vaping may act as a diversion from cigarettes, for youth who are inclined to experiment and try smoking. “Despite the widespread claims that vaping is a gateway to smoking initiation among youth, the most definitive study to date of this issue fails to provide any evidence to support that contention,” he said, adding that on the contrary, “it provides evidence suggesting that vaping acts as a kind of diversion that can keep some youth away from cigarette smoking.”

Read Further: Reason

US Surgeon General Warns About Rise in Teen Vaping

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