The first study of its kind, led by researchers at Cardiff University and published in the Journal of Tobacco Control shows that the sharp rise in electronic cigarette use has not encouraged children in the UK to start using traditional cigarettes, nor indeed renormalised smoking.
Funded by the National Institute for Health Research who collaborated with academies across the UK, the study analysed the views of over 250,000 young people, with the final data showing some astounding results.
The Fall in Teenage Smokers
From 1998 – 2015, the percentage of people between the ages of 13 – 15 who had smoked, has decreased from 60% to just 19%. People in the same age group, who regularly smoked fell from 19% to 5%.
In 1999 the percentage of young people who tried a cigarette and said it was ‘OK’ was 70%. In 2015 that figure was 27%.
Dr Graham Moore, based at the Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement said:
“These findings suggest that fears over a resurgence in youth tobacco smoking because of the rise in e-cigarette use are largely unfounded to date. The nature of e-cigarettes, and the landscape in which they are sold and used, continues to change rapidly, and we need to continue to keep a close eye on how they affect young people. However, this study demonstrates the success of public health efforts in reducing smoking among young people in the last 20 years and provides no evidence that e-cigarettes are reversing this.”
The Youth Vaping Gateway Theory
The harboured fear that vaping in the youth population would exponentially increase and become a crisis for future generations seems to be a myth that has never materialised in the UK.
In 2016 the Welsh government was so concerned that e-cigarettes would normalise smoking that they tried to ban them from public spaces. So no children would be exposed to vaping. Thankfully in this circumstance, common sense won out and the potential ban was never implemented.
This doesn’t stop other countries from using this widely held belief, even while backed by no data, to impose strict regulations on vaping. The USA is looking at an almost complete ban on vaping in some states. While the cry of ‘Think of the children’ echoes around government offices.
Totally Wicked Technical Director Liam Humberstone:
”The frequent concerns about e-cigarettes acting as gateway into smoking for young people have so far been unfounded in the UK, and business experience means this study’s results come as no surprise to us. We will continue to strive to be the best gateway out of smoking for adults.”
There is Nothing to Fear from the Rise of Vaping
Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said:
“The study shows there is nothing to fear from the growth of vaping. The results support our view that the government should ease restrictions on e-cigarette advertising. It’s time too for local authorities to lead by example. To lift restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace and other public areas. Young people’s negative views on smoking also suggest the health risks are very well understood. Now they need to be taught about choice and personal responsibility. So when they are adults they can make informed decisions without unnecessary state intervention.”
Everything about this study is positive. The fact that it has been published by the Guardian, a newspaper whose usual stance is firmly anti-vaping, can only serve as a further glimmer of hope. Hope that the usual scaremongering and fear of the unknown is finally being brushed to one side.