Study authors Dr. Natasha Sokol, a fellow at Brown University’s Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies, and Dr. Justin Feldman, a fellow at Harvard’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, wanted once again to address the infamous “Gateway Theory”: the idea that vaping causes a nicotine addiction that leads to smoking.
The researchers conducted a regression analysis of 12th-graders with data retrieved from the “Monitoring the Future” report, a survey conducted by the federal government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) that measures different forms of drug use by adolescents nationwide.
The researchers found the contrary to a gateway effect
On the contrary to a gateway effect, the study authors found that actually the youth who do vape tend to be those who would have been smokers if vapes had never come into existence. “Our model predicted smoking prevalence quite accurately prior to the availability of e-cigarettes,” Sokol told Filter.
“But once e-cigarettes became available in a widespread way, it increasingly overestimated the prevalence [of smoking]. So the prevalence was decreasing, but our model based on a pre-e-cigarette era was predicting a decrease but not as steep.[The youth] who had a low propensity to smoke after e-cigarettes were available were exceedingly unlikely to use e-cigarettes,” she added.
Vaping teens three times as likely to start smoking
Meanwhile, a study claiming the opposite was recently published online in the journal Addictive Behaviors. The study titled, “Electronic cigarette use and risk of cigarette and smokeless tobacco initiation among adolescent boys: A propensity score matched analysis,” reported that teen vapers were almost three times as likely to start smoking than their non-vaping peers.
The researchers said that unlike longitudinal studies, which argue that teens who took up smoking may have done so whether they vaped or not, this study didn’t just follow participants over time. “For an ideal study, from a purely scientific perspective, we’d give everybody an e-cigarette, follow them for a few years and see if they start smoking, then rewind the clock and don’t give them an e-cigarette. Or we’d randomly assign kids to vape or not to vape,” said lead study author Brittney Keller-Hamilton. “We can’t do either of those things, obviously.”
To this effect, the researchers used an advanced statistical approach in which they compared vaping and non-vaping teens with similar known risk factors such as alcohol use, marijuana use, impulsivity, their parents’ education levels and tobacco history.
“We identified two groups of young people who were equally likely to start vaping based on a number of factors, and then we compared the outcomes over the course of the study. We found that e-cigarette users were 2.7 times as likely to try smoking,” said Keller-Hamilton, who currently works as a research scientist in the Center for Tobacco Research at Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.