Evidence harms the argument that acceptance of vaping leads to a large number of non-smokers picking up the habit
For as long as vaping has been popular, people have been debating whether or not legitimizing vaping for its harm reduction value would cause non-smokers to pick up the habit. Critics claim that by implying e-cigarettes can drastically reduce a smoker’s exposure to harm, it would telegraph to the public that it’s a 100% harmless activity. Some even believe that vaping can lead people to smoke even if they never had before. While this debate is likely far from over, a new piece of evidence has given more credence to those that say the harm reduction aids do not entice non-smokers.
The study was led by renowned tobacco control expert and vaping advocate, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos of Greece. The researchers were interested in understanding the prevalence as well as any relevant correlates of e-cigarette use in 2017. They observed some exciting results, chief among them, that only 0.2% of the never smokers surveyed were current vapers. While this study was conducted in Greece, these sort of results are being reported across the globe.
Farsalinos’ New Study
Dr. Farsalinos and his team started by gathering a representative sample of over 4000 adults who live in the Attica area of Greece. That region accounts for about 35% of the entire adult population of Greece. They conducted a cross-sectional study in May of 2017 where they called individuals on the phone to discuss their vaping habits. They compared smoking status with prevalence and frequency patterns to determine any potential correlations. After gathering their data, they started to notice some interesting trends.
To start, over half of current smokers, 54.1%, reported having ever used e-cigarettes. This is compared with 24.1% of former smokers and only 6.5% of never-smokers. But things become much more compelling when you take a look at those who continued to vape. Around 62.2% of current vapers were found to be former smokers, while only a minuscule 0.2% of never smokers continued to vape. Unsurprisingly then, when fully adjusted, it was only being a current or former smoker that correlated with adoption of consistent vaping.
But the study also asked participants about their perception of the dangers of vaping, and those results were far less encouraging. Dr. Farsalinos’ study also tracked the understanding of e-cigarettes among the different group of participants. Overall, only 5.4% of participants believed that vaping is a lot less harmful than smoking, compared with 34.4% who said they thought e-cigarettes were just as, if not more dangerous than combustible cigarettes.
This study joins a growing set of evidence that indicates the vast majority of current vapers used to be smokers. In fact, these studies have been coming in from all around the world. Last fall, the American Heart Association released statistics that also indicated daily vapers are more likely to be either former smokers or still be attempting to make the switch. Adding to the theory that most people use vaping as a smoking cessation tool, the same study found former smokers were over 20 times more likely to have vaped at some point in their first three months of quitting.
When discussing the influence of vaping, the effect on teens is always front and center. Many critics are concerned that accepting vaping as a harm reduction tool will eventually lead the youth to pick up smoking. Public Health England conducted a very large scale study on this subject involving over 60,000 11-16-year-olds. They concluded that there is no evidence vaping is leading teens to pick up smoking. In fact, their numbers indicate that only between 0.1% and 0.5% of daily vaping teens had previously been non-smokers.
It’s vital for us to dispel the myth that societal acceptance of vaping will somehow lead to a slowing or even reversal of the dropping smoking rates. It’s becoming clear through a growing body of research that only a tiny portion of the never-smoking population are even transitioning to full-time vaping, let alone jumping ship to traditional smoking. With this becoming apparent, we should be working to instate e-cigarettes as a legitimate smoking cessation and harm reduction tool. Instead, legislators continue to attempt to equate vaping with smoking by lumping e-cigarettes into the existent tobacco control regulations. But if we genuinely desire a world in which smoking has become a thing of the past, we must move past this old and tired argument against vaping.
Do you know anyone who picked up smoking for the first time after vaping? Why did you decide to make the switch? How can we improve the understanding of the harm reduction value of vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.