Ecigs are not a gateway to smoking

Are Electronic Cigarettes A Gateway To Smoking? (Infographic)

Since the Electronic Cigarette Summit, it’s been generally accepted in the UK that electronic cigarettes are orders of magnitude safer than tobacco cigarettes.

So anti-ecig activists have taken a new tack – that electronic cigarettes, despite helping over 2,000,000 stop or reduce tobacco consumption are leading adults and children into smoking.

However, as this infographic shows, the current evidence (sourced from Action on Smoking and HealthSmoking in England and Nicotine Policy) shows that electronic cigarettes are acting as an exit from, not a gateway to, tobacco cigarettes.

Are electronic cigarettes a gateway to cmoking?

*Note: Data on Nicotine Policy shows e-cigs are nearly twice as effective as Nicotine Replacement Therapy. Since this infographic was commissioned, other sources have stated that the figure is 60%.

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Action on Smoking and Health Survey

The most important data comes to us from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

They have found that:

  • just 0.1% of ecigarette users have never smoked
  • that very few children use ecigarettes on a regular basis (more than once a week), and those who do smoked before using ecigarettes

French Survey: Ecigs Lead to A Huge Decrease in Youth Smoking

E-cigs increase anti-smoking youth
E-cigs lead to a decrease in youth smoking

The Labour government in Wales has used a French survey to argue that electronic cigarettes are a gateway to smoking.

One problem.

That survey showed an almost 50% reduction in youth smoking since the introduction of e-cigarettes, and was hailed as a success by French doctors like Jacques Houezec:

“This is good news! The increased popularity of e-cigs among youth participated in a important decrease of tobacco use between 2011 and 2014.”

Source: Houzec Blog

American Cancer Society’s Cynical Ploy

Of course, there’s no harm in taking steps to make sure that children don’t have access to e-cigarettes. (Unfortunately, we’ll never succeed completely, as some kids will always find a way around regulations, just as they have with the smoking ban.)

That’s why our industry body, the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA), banned the sale of e-cigarettes to children years ago.

But some anti-nicotine groups are cynically opposed to these regulations. The American Cancer Society has publicly stated that it is against the ban on children because it will make it more difficult to have e-cigs banned if the gateway threat is removed (see Professor Siegel’s article Sacrificing Children’s Health for Politics: American Cancer Society’ Sinks to A New Low.)


E-cig flavours
There’s also the issue of flavours.

Many people hate the idea of non-tobacco flavours, believing they are designed to lure children in. But research by Pepper et al suggests that flavours make no difference to how likely a child is to want to try e-cigs.

Personally, I think any vendor would have to be suicidal to deliberately sell to children!

But flavours do have an important role to play. When you switch to electronic cigarettes and start using non-tobacco flavours, it becomes very difficult to revert back to smoking.

In essence, e-cigarette flavours denormalise smoking.

Experimentation v. Addiction

Our experience with alcohol and tobacco shows that kids will always find a way to experiment with vices, no matter how careful regulators and retailers are, just as history shows that people will smoke and drink no matter what the penalties.

(After all, imprisonment, torture, execution and excomunication have all been tried in the past, but smokers kept smoking).

Fortunately, the evidence so far clearly demonstrates that experimenting with electronic cigarettes does not lead to smoking.

An Exit, Not A Gateway

e-cigs an exit from smoking
As noted in the infographic, a study of users has shown that electronic cigarettes are more effective than nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) at getting people off tobacco cigarettes.

(One study in New Zealand found that e-cigarettes had the same effectiveness as NRT. However, this study was criticised by scientists at the E-Cigarette Summit for using naive vapers (people who don’t know how to vape). It is essential to use electronic cigarettes in the correct way.

Of people continuing to use electronic cigarettes, 700,000 have stopped using tobacco cigarettes. Over 1,400,000 have reduced the amount they smoke (and will hopefully stop smoking altogether in the future). An unknown number of people have used e-cigarettes to stop nicotine usage altogether.

We need to ensure that smokers are encouraged, not discouraged from, switching to reduced harm alternatives.

And if people want to experiment with vices despite all the information that it IS a bad idea, they’d be better off doing it with e-cigarettes than with tobacco cigarettes.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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1 thought on “Are Electronic Cigarettes A Gateway To Smoking? (Infographic)”

  1. Having been a smoker for roughly 35 years and now currently a vaper for nearly 3 years I can say that vaping is much kinder on the lungs and throat than smoke. I have tried smoking cigarettes a couple of times in the past 6 months just out of curiosity and discovered it is extremely difficult for me to do. Smoke from tobacco is extremely harsh nasty and actually causes pain in the linings of my throat and lungs, it is an extremely unpleasant experience and not something that I wish to try again. I cannot imagine how anyone would take up smoking after trying electronic cigarettes which taste and feel far nicer. Water vapour is much kinder on soft tissue than the smoke from burning leaves, you don’t need to do any research to figure that out !

    The whole ‘gateway’ argument is ludicrous and shows that very little actual research is being done, the entire argument is based on fear instead of facts.

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