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Survey Proves Ecigs Do Not Lead Teens to Use Tobacco

Critics of the electronic cigarette industry often claim that ecigs will act as a gateway to tobacco use for teens. However, a new survey is debunking that myth and contradicting many previous reports about how vaping impacts today’s children. In a recent YouGov survey of 11-18 year olds, researchers found that while some teens are experimenting with ecigs, the number of young people that vape on a regular basis is actually quite small. Those who do use ecigs routinely were already using cigarettes before they transitioned to vaping.

Hazel Cheeseman, the directory of policy at Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said this survey gives us a new view into what is really happening with teens and ecigs. “These results should reassure the public that electronic cigarettes are not linked with any rise in young people smoking,” she said. “Although many young people are trying electronic cigarettes and many more young people are aware of them, this has not led to widespread, regular use or an increase in smoking.”

According to researchers, only four percent of youth had tried an ecig in 2013, but this number rose to 10 percent in 2015. However, in this most recent survey, only 2.4 percent of young people reported vaping regularly (defined as using an ecig at least once per month). Of those that were using ecigs on a regular basis, almost all reported that they were smokers previously.

The survey also revealed that the majority of young people believe vaping isn’t as dangerous as using traditional tobacco products. Only 21 percent of surveyed teens said they believed electronic cigarettes were just as harmful as tobacco products.

In hopes of reducing teen vaping rates in the UK, a new law will soon be introduced to prohibit the sale of ecigs to anyone under age 18. Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and well-being at Public Health England, said the new law is an important step to protect children from experimenting with ecigs. “It will reinforce the message that (ecigs) are intended for adult smokers who want to cut down or stop smoking,” Fenton explained.

At Stirling University, Professor Linda Bauld is an expert on smoking behavior. When she read the survey she wasn’t surprised. “The survey confirms previous studies showing that children who take up e-cigarettes are already smokers.” However, Bauld believes it is still important for teens to understand the risks of vaping are far less worrisome than the risks of smoking.

“This confusion may have contributed to a rising perception in young people – a view which almost doubled between 2013 and 2014 – that e-cigarettes can cause the same level of harm to the user as tobacco,” Bauld said. “This is concerning as it may contribute to some young people continuing to use a deadly product – the cigarette – rather than try less-harmful alternatives.”

While ideally, we would hope that teenagers never use nicotine at all, if they refuse to abstain, then at least electronic cigarettes are a better alternative because they are tobacco-free. The good news is that ecigs are not acting as a gateway to teen smoking and we can finally put this myth to rest once and for all.

Would you be concerned if your teen was using an electronic cigarette? Would you have a different reaction if you found your teen vaping versus smoking?

Electronic Cigarettes • April 5, 2017

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