Conducted by researchers from the University of Bristol’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group (TARG), with support from Bristol’s MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit (IEU) and the NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), the study found that young adults who have tried e-cigarettes without smoking before, were almost five times more likely to go on to try smoking.
Young adults with the personality type inclined towards experimentation are more likely to dabble with multiple substances, including e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes.
However, these findings did not not provide conclusive evidence of the so-called possible “gateway effect“, or the theory that vaping leads to smoking. “Policymakers have used the findings of studies, including the studies we reviewed in this research, to support the heavy regulation of e-cigarettes, including restrictions on flavours and even total bans, but the evidence that e-cigarette use might cause young people to take up smoking is not as strong as it might appear,” said Jasmine Khouja, a PhD student in TARG based in the School of Psychological Science.
The research team identified a number of issues with the studies included in this analysis, which made the conclusion that vaping leads to smoking inappropriate. Whilst the association between e-cigarette use among non-smokers and subsequent smoking appeared strong, the available evidence was unreliable since the data was collected via self-report measures of smoking history not biochemical verification.
A correlation is not causation
Additionally, none of the studies included negative controls which would have shown whether the association is causal or not. To this effect, tobacco harm reduction experts have long been pointing out that a correlation between vaping and smoking cannot be considered a causation, namely because personality factors need also be considered. Young adults already have a higher tendency to experiment than other age groups. Moreover, those with the personality type inclined towards experimentation will likely dabble with multiple substances, including e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes.
“Much of the evidence also failed to consider the nicotine content of e-liquids used by non-smokers meaning it is difficult to make conclusions about whether nicotine is the mechanism driving this association,” added the researchers. They concluded that future studies should address the issues which have been highlighted, and that the correlation between vaping and smoking is analyzed by using more advanced tests.
Read Further: EurekAlert!
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