Landmark Study Admits Vaping Is Safer Than Smoking, Has No Firm ‘Gateway’ Effect

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

The most comprehensive review of existing research on electronic cigarettes to date concludes the products are a useful tool for smokers trying to quit cigarettes that greatly improves health outcomes.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released the review Tuesday, which echos previous reports confirming the relative safety of vaping devices when compared to combustible cigarettes. The report found that smokers who completely switch to vaping largely eliminate their exposure to deadly carcinogens, tar and other harmful chemicals present in cigarettes, reports The New York Times.

Public health experts stress in the report that people engaging in dual use, alternating between vaping and smoking, do not experience the same health boons as smokers who make a clean transition. The authors stop short of definitively calling vapor products “safe” in the report, stressing that more research is needed on the long-term impacts of e-cigarettes.

The report reflect the conclusions of health care bodies in the United Kingdom like Public Health England, which encourages smokers to quit using vapor products.

“The committee’s findings also fall in line with F.D.A. Director Scott Gottlieb’s nicotine strategy, a key element of which involves adult smokers switching to lower risk products,” Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, told The New York Times. “In the wake of this report, it is more apparent than ever that true leadership is needed in public health to ensure that adult smokers have access to truthful information about the benefits of switching to smoke-free products.”

The researchers go to great lengths to stress their fears that vaping may be acting as a “gateway” to combustible cigarettes, citing 10 studies showing a relationship between experimentation with vaping and smoking. They found no meaningful link, however, between long-term smoking and use of e-cigarettes.

The New York Times says in their headlines that vaping may “lure teenagers to smoking,” but note later in their report that, “these studies did not show that using e-cigarettes caused teens to move on to tobacco, only that the use of e-cigarettes was associated with later smoking of at least one traditional cigarette.”

Still, the researchers said the connection between teen smoking and vaping will likely influence future regulation of the products, particularly concerning flavors, which many adult smokers say are key to dissociating with the taste of tobacco while quitting cigarettes.

The “gateway” theory on vaping was previously debunked in a collaborative study by researchers at the University of Stirling and Public Health England.

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan’s annual Monitoring the Future Survey, released Dec. 14, shows reported cigarette use among 12th graders fell to 4.2 percent this year, down from 24.6 percent in 1997, even as the number of youth experimenting with vaping devices increased.

Advocates of smoking alternatives say alarmism over vaping misses the larger point about e-cigarettes; namely, that they are a harm reduction tool helping millions of American smokers quit combustible tobacco. Roughly 2.62 million former smokers were using a vape in 2016.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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