In times past, e-cigarette has been attributed as the gateway to tobacco use. The “gateway” hypothesis aims to establish the premise that vaping can lead to increased smoking, particularly among non-smokers and the youth. It tries to present evidence implying the correlation between smoking and e-cigarette use. But, results of studies don’t lie. Several researches have been made and more nails were found to seal the coffin of the hypothesis so it can finally be laid to rest.
Contradicting the Gateway Hypothesis
In 2013, a study was conducted by the Mayo’s Clinic Cancer Prevention and Control Program involving 1,300 students whose average age was 19. Out of the total respondents, only 43 used e-cig as their first nicotine product. Only one moved on to smoke regular cigarette while the rest does not use nicotine or tobacco product. With the low 2.3 percent of the participants becoming smoker after vaping, the study completely suggests that using e-cigs are not gateway to tobacco smoking. This agrees with an earlier CDC study.
A 2014 survey was conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health across 27 European countries involving 26,566 adults aged 15 or over. The results showed that only 20.3 percent of smokers, 4.4 percent of quitters, and 1.1 percent of non-smokers have ever used e-cigs. The respondents further revealed that they vaped once or twice, but never picked-up the practice as a habit. The Harvard study invalidates the gateway theory and proves that non-smokers don’t vape very often.
Results of a new study gave similar conclusion. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine made an online study to question 1,304 college students regarding their first and current use of nicotine and tobacco products. Only 9.2 percent had tried e-cigs. From those who tried e-cigs before other products, two of them occasionally vape. Even if the study was admittedly imperfect, it gave a clear message that trying e-cigarettes does not lead people into smoking tobacco.
Putting the Hypothesis on Shaky Ground
The gateway hypothesis presents the core idea that regardless of how nicotine is taken the user is more or less inclined to try it in another type. The theory’s significant predictor of current tobacco use was gender, with men as the main users and the most likely form of nicotine use is combustible cigarettes.
According to the findings, those who started on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco first are more likely to use multiple products than those who started on e-cigarettes. The only gateway-like effects are observed from how the respondents started out smoking. The main thing that can be concluded is that people are most likely to continue their form of smoking that was originally started out.
Studies also revealed that people are more likely to try drugs and be addicted than others due to some influencing factors and characteristics, not because of some magical properties ascribed to specific substances. This premise further put little value to the gateway idea.
The new study was conducted with student respondents who were likely experimenting with their first nicotine product. At that time, vaping was not yet popular and the students were not familiar on how to use e-cigs. Those who tried e-cigs probably puffed them like traditional cigarettes.
Whether or not the unfamiliarity with e-cigs is the reason for the small percentage of participants who went on to become smoker, it was conclusive enough to suggest that electronic cigarettes are not a gateway to smoking. The idea of switching from ash-tasting and dangerous habit of cigarette smoking to pleasant and delicious-tasting e-cigarette doesn’t seem to change the fact that vaping does not make people take up smoking.