That New Study On Kids That Vape Becoming Smokers Rebuffed!

Barely a day into the vaping new year and the worldwide mainstream media has once again jumped gleefully on the kids that vape turn into smokers saga.

Before I look at the truth behind the headlines that ‘vaping leads to kids smoking’ I’ll just say this – no it doesn’t.

There I’ve said it and nope that’s not from me but from hard scientific evidence backed by the most powerful medical institutions in the UK – I know who I tend to believe.

encourage smokers to vape

OK so what’s the thinking behind this latest headline that traveled the world – from the serious UK newspaper the Daily Star [coughs] to the loftier [lol] New York Post and even that well-read tome GloucestershireLive [annoying video ads alert]?

According to researchers from University of California kids that tried an e-cigarette were 2.53 times more likely to smoke within 12 months.

The study was published in Journal of the American Medical Association’s Online Pediatrics magazine and showed ‘scientists’ studied the habits of 10,000 12-17 year olds with lead researcher Dr. Benjamin Chaffee concluding:

Youths who initiated tobacco use with non-cigarette products were more likely to have smoked cigarettes one year later than were youths who had never used tobacco.

Sounds bad huh?

According to Dr Chaffee’s findings things get even worse:

In light of these observed associations between non-cigarette tobacco use and future smoking, novel tobacco products have the potential to undermine public health gains in combating the smoking epidemic.

Wow this guy’s seriously out of touch…

How can he suggest that e-cigs are undermining public health gains when even Public Health England used them in the recent Stoptober campaign as the best way to quit smoking?

Here in the UK we now know thanks to a raft of scientific studies that vaping is 95% safer than smoking – and probably higher.

Or how about the recent study by Dr William E Stephens from the University of St Andrews in Scotland who found that vaping and e-cigs were a staggering 57,000 times less likely to give you cancer?

Or – and as we’re talking about the young folk here – a UK study backed by PHE and packed with renowned medical experts – that categorically concluded Vaping is NOT a Gateway to Kids Becoming Smokers. We will talk more about that below.

The Number Of Kids That Try Smoking Is Falling Dramatically

There’s your research – I’ll raise you x10+ of mine – sadly even in the face of such evidence these one shot media headline hunting scientists never seem to fold do they?

I picked out this line on my article about the study:

…regular use [e-cigs] among 11–16 year olds remains very low, at 3% or less, and remains largely confined to regular smokers.

That last bit is important – confined to regular smokers.

Look smoking among kids is dropping dramatically here in the UK and the USA with more and more realizing they are harmful to health and more importantly to them as youngsters ‘un-cool’.

cancer research uk kids smoking stats
stats via Cancer research UK

Kids have always seen smoking as a kind or rebellious act or rite of passage – so to see the majority of the tiny handful that are smoking try vaping instead has to be a good thing right?

As I said in my piece given a choice of my grandson smoking or vaping – I’d buy him the e-cig and flush his fags trust me!

I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time rebuffing fake news about vaping and a quick look at the stories in the media about this shows most of them are literally verbatim from a press release with just a bit of tinkering.

It’s standard practice in busy newsrooms where the trainee gets to cut his teeth on this kind of thing – trust me I should know – you begin on wedding announcements – golden weddings and then move on to re-writing press releases!

That’s why there’s never – or rarely – another side to the story – such as quotes from those with an opposing view – the re-writer is told not to bog themselves down with such ‘trivia’ over a ‘no story’!

And that’s why the vast majority of these anti-vape stories go unchallenged and into the psyche of the public across the world.

And as night follows day the anti vape brigade including politicians take those articles as hard core undisputed fact and run with them.

A vicious circle that over the years has meant anti-vape feelings and mis-beliefs have sat high on the public opinion scale.

Study “Omits Or Obscures Important Contextual Information”

As of this morning there are few rebuttals to this ‘study’ out there but two in particular caught my eye.

The first is a tweet from Brian Carter who holds a PhD in clinical psychology and has been researching addiction and nicotine for the past two decades.

He’s also the Director of Scientific Communication for CASSA – the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association an American advocacy group – so I guess this guy knows a thing or two on the subject at hand lol.

His reaction to the study leaves you in no doubt of its ‘worth’:

brian carter tweet

The excellent blog Tobacco Truth finds a glaring error in California shock study that obviously a little bit of digging by reporters would have discovered – incidentally I was an old school reporter – these days we call the new breed ‘repeaters’ for obvious reasons.

Anyway back to Tobacco Truth that says not only are the results misleading – but completely ‘inaccurate’ as the writer explains:

Chaffee and his colleagues, including anti-tobacco crusader Stanton Glantz, omitted information that is critical to putting their findings in perspective.

Although teens trying other tobacco products were more likely to smoke, the majority of new smokers after one year came from the group that had not tried tobacco at baseline.

After one year, 219 teens had smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days, and 175 of those (80%) had never used any tobacco product at baseline.

Even though the odds of smoking were higher among youth who had tried other products, the number of smokers contributed by each of these groups was minuscule.

The Chaffee article emphasizes odds ratios but omits or obscures important contextual information.

While teens who try one tobacco product are more likely to try another, the dominant gateway in the PATH survey was from no previous tobacco use to cigarettes.

Ummm that’s what the American’s call a ‘slam dunk I believe lol.

By not mentioning the kids that smoked were not part of the baseline of those that had never used a tobacco product the numbers were at best shall we say fudged or blurred.

But as I’ve said many times – don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story…

BTW isn’t it amazing how a smallish study like this travels across the world quicker than you can roll a fag – yet positive studies barely get a look in?

Can’t imagine why…

Now onto the other study…

Largest Study Carried out to Date Concludes Vaping is NOT a Gateway to Kids Becoming Smokers

Can we now finally hammer the last nail in the coffin of the myth that vaping is a gateway for youngsters into smoking please?Vaping gateway to smoking for kids?

In the largest study ever carried out into the link between kids – vaping and smoking, a collaboration of health experts under the umbrella of Public Health England has found youngsters are NOT likely to make the transition.

So to be absolutely clear – young people between the ages of 11 to 16 that experiment with vaping DO NOT move onto cigarettes.

And before the anti-vape brigade jumps up and down shouting ‘just another study’ the results come from five separate surveys carried out between 2015 and 2017 and conducted across the UK.

Lead author Linda Bauld from Stirling University said:

Recent studies have generated alarming headlines that e-cigarettes are leading to smoking. Our analysis of the latest surveys from all parts of the United Kingdom, involving thousands of teenagers shows clearly that for those teens who don’t smoke, e-cig experimentation is simply not translating into regular use.

Data from 60,000 young people was gathered from 5 different studies each with different briefs and methods – the studies were:

  • The Youth Tobacco Policy Survey
  • The Schools Health Research Network Wales Survey
  • Two Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
  • Smokefree Great Britain-Youth Surveys
  • Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey

The final results showed that the amount of youngsters smoking had dropped with between 11% and 20% of kids trying a cigarette and of those just 1% and 4% became regular smokers.

As to e-cigarettes and vaping – between 7% and 18% had tried an e-cig at one time or another with between 0.1% and 0.5% becoming regular users.

The study stated:

In summary, surveys across the UK show a consistent pattern: most e-cigarette experimentation does not turn into regular use, and levels of regular use in young people who have never smoked remain very low.

Armed With the Facts Kids Make Healthier Choices

The findings pretty much mirrors the anecdotal evidence I collected after chatting with a bunch of kids in my home town in the piece Adolescents and Vaping.

And it comes back to my old mantra ‘education not legislation’.Cigarettes in ashtray

A whole generation of kids have been told about the dangers of smoking and have made their personal health choices based on the facts – cigarettes kill and therefore they don’t smoke in anywhere near the numbers our generation did back when I was a child.

The fact the anti-vaping brigade has pounced on e-cigs being a ‘gateway to kids smoking’ is quite simply sordid reeking of desperation and an extremely dark practice that MUST end now.

The end result of this constant anti vape braying brigade getting heard in the media has been a whole host of knee jerk banning reactions from cities such as San Francisco and New Jersey banning or planning to ban flavoured e-liquids ‘to protect the kiddies’.

This study alone proves that is a ridiculous assumption and I hope vaping groups far and wide pounce on these results and get the message out – vaping is NOT a gateway to smoking.

And therefore flavoured e-liquids are NOT designed to hook the kids in – they are meant for adults to get a bit of pleasure out of a relatively harmless chemical called nicotine.

And let’s not forget for every single piece of fake news and bad press around vaping – you can add another smoker who ‘doesn’t see the point’ in quitting in effect forcing a smoker into ill health and a high chance of an early grave – but that as they say is a whole other story.

Conclusions – The Kid’s Are Alright!

The study concludes:

This paper highlights the current rates of e-cigarette use among youth in the UK, where e-cigarettes form a part of a tobacco harm reduction policy landscape.

Whilst it is estimated that there are 2.9 million e-cigarette current users among adults in Great Britain – regular use among 11–16 year olds remains very low, at 3% or less, and remains largely confined to regular smokers.

Regular e-cigarette use among never smokers is very rare. These low rates of regular use suggest that youth experimentation is not currently leading to greater frequency of use, however, comparing youth e-cigarette data and trends across surveys and countries is crucial to better understand youth trends.

Survey measures must be designed to assess frequency of use, rather than just ever or past 30 day use.

The bit that jumps out at me is the line:

…regular use [e-cigs]among 11–16 year olds remains very low, at 3% or less, and remains largely confined to regular smokers.

That’s regular smokers aged between 11 and 16.kids with cigarettes

Now I’m a dad and a granddad and given the mounting evidence that vaping is 95% safer than regular cigarettes I’d far rather my son or grandson experimented with vaping rather than a Lambert and Butler – fact.

So to see kids who are ALREADY hooked on cigarettes attempting to quit or cut down by using e-cigs has to be a good thing right?

Commenting on the findings of the study Deborah Arnott – chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health said:

ASH will continue to monitor the potential impact of e-cigarettes on young people, however this study provides reassurance that to date fears that they are a gateway into smoking are just not born out by the facts on the ground.

A small proportion of young people do experiment with e-cigs, but this does not appear to be leading to regular vaping or smoking in any numbers, indeed smoking rates in young people are continuing to decline.

Graham Moore one of the collaborators of the study was a little more forthright:

…concerns that e-cigarettes are leading large numbers of young people into addiction and tobacco use increasingly seem to be implausible.

Now let’s hope this puts an end to the constant fear mongering that us vapers are a gang of smoking Pied Pipers tooting on our mods and dragging all those poor little kiddies into a life of nicotine dependency 😉

Though somehow I doubt it…so watch this space as they say…

Cancer Research UK Slams The Media For Sexing Up Vape Study

cruk response to kids vaping

The media is under fire from Cancer Research UK [CRUK] after wrongly reporting kids that try vaping are 12 times more likely to become smokers.

I think by now you – like me – look at these headlines – sigh – take a vape and move on – but it’s refreshing to finally see those behind the e-cigarette studies correct the media quite so thoroughly.

OK so what’s this all about then…

CRUK funded yet another study into vaping this time looking at that old chestnut of kids that vape take up smoking: The Association Between Smoking and Electronic Cigarette Use in a Cohort of Young People.

A total of 1,152 11- to 18-year-olds were studied from April 2016 and a follow-up between August and October 2016.

The main thrust of the study carried out by researchers at King’s College London was:

Electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use is associated with smoking initiation among young people; however, it is also possible that smoking is associated with e-cigarette initiation.

This study explores these associations among young people in Great Britain.

No problem with that because as we know kids who vape and then turn to the cancer sticks are way below one percent with many of them likely to have become smokers anyway – kids will experiment and all that.

Experts Put The Record Straight On So Called ‘Gateway Effect’

However the media pounced on the ‘results’ ignoring the facts with glaring headlines saying scientists had ‘proven’ the so called gateway effect between kids trying e-cigarettes before moving on to smoking.

Not so says CRUK – and spokesman Carl Alexander was quick to slap the media’s wrists for ‘misrepresentation’ of the facts adding:

While this study shows young people who experiment with e-cigarettes are likely to try smoking and vice versa, the researchers didn’t look at whether the youngsters then became regular users or whether they might have tried smoking anyway.

Research like this is important to help us understand the potential impact of e-cigarettes on young people.

It’s illegal to sell e-cigarettes to under 18s in this country, and regular use among those who’ve never smoked tobacco is very low.

Tobacco is the biggest preventable cause of death in the world. The evidence so far shows that e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking and people are successfully using them to give up tobacco.

vaping and teens

This was further backed up by Prof John Britton, Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham.

He said:

This study shows that young people who experiment with tobacco cigarettes also try e-cigarettes, and vice versa, consistent with a tendency for young people to try things, and to try things that are related to each other.

Young people who don’t smoke but try an electronic cigarette are indeed more likely to become smokers, but those people are probably also more likely to become smokers even if without e-cigarettes.

The numbers who move from e-cigarettes to smoking are small.

This study therefore provides further reassurance that e-cigarettes are not a major gateway to smoking.

In a nutshell and as I’ve said many times before kids by their very nature will experiment with one or the other and this doesn’t necessarily mean either leads to the other if you catch my drift.

To be honest I’d rather see those kids that smoke regularly switch to vaping – and before you jump on your ‘poor kiddies’ soap box remember I’d also prefer not see see any youngster doing either.

However this is the real world and as I keep saying – a small handful kids will experiment.

Let’s leave the last word on this [one can wish it’s the last word lol] to CRUK:

…the study found that it was much more common for young people to have tried smoking than e-cigarettes: only 21 had tried an e-cigarette but not smoked, compared with 118 who had tried smoking but not e-cigarettes.

Youth smoking rates in the UK continue to decline, and regular use of e-cigarettes is rare and is almost entirely confined to those who have smoked before.

The evidence does not therefore support the concern that e-cigarettes are a strong gateway into smoking.

In the UK sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s is prohibited, and advertising for e-cigarettes on TV, radio, the internet and the press is prohibited.

All of these measures are designed to protect young people in particular.

Don’t hold your breath hoping to see the true facts appear in the media any time soon…

You can read the full Cancer Research UK response Here

Cancer Research UK is spending over a quarter of a million quid to study adolescents that vape

News that Cancer Research UK is spending over a quarter of a million quid to study adolescents that vape is I believe a complete waste of your ‘donated’ money.

Maybe they should use the cash for something more important such as say ‘researching a cure for cancer?’

teens vaping
pic via: Wullie Marr

Just a suggestion – but hey this donation of £278,000 to boffins at Leicester University will keep the cancer charity gravy train rolling on and on for a while longer.

I have a feeling the results and conclusion of this pointless study will go something like:

Whilst there’s some evidence that teens are vaping – some with e-liquid containing small amounts of nicotine – more research is required to accurately determine if teens that vape are more likely or not to go on to smoking.

Sure there will no doubt be reams of data backed up by fancy graphs and charts – but the end result will be a begging bowl for more funds for ‘more research’ – you can bet on it.

Like I said all aboard the ‘the cancer gravy train’.

The charity’s flashy website [paid for by your donations] has the strap-line ‘let’s beat cancer sooner’ – might even be quicker if they invested YOUR hard earned charitable donations better.

Cancer_Research_UK

Cancer Research UK had £647 million in its coffers last year – up year on year by 2%.

Source: Cancer Research UK Annual Report 2015/17

That’s a hell of a lot of jumble sales – second hand shop till receipts – individual donations – fun runs and coffee mornings – the result of YOUR hard work and generosity.

One has to ask is this particular piece of research worthy of those efforts?

And whilst some may say the quarter of a million quid given to Leicester University is a drop in the ocean compared to the charity’s bank balance – think of what they could have done with the cash – that’s a hell of a lot of test tubes and laboratory gear.

And don’t forget the wages of the CEO of CRUK.

Back in 2015 it was reported the then CEO of Cancer Research UK was earning a staggering £240,000 per year – like I said ‘a gravy train’.

BTW if anyone – including the very well paid scientists they employ bothered to Google [free] the wealth of scientific evidence out there – they’d see that:

So what is the main thrust of this new research?

Adolescent Vaping Careers

Despite the title suggesting otherwise – this is not a study to look at the opportunities for adolescents to work in the vaping industry – strange use of the word careers!

It’s described by lead researcher Professor Jason Hughes from University of Leicester’s College of Social Science, Arts and Humanities as a way to:

…examine the relationship between vaping and smoking, particularly how this shifts over time and in relation to a range of different influences.

leicester uni

OK I can see a tenuous link to cancer research – kids that vape may go onto smoking and get cancer – tenuous to say the least.

But – and correct me if I’m wrong – isn’t the battle over kids that smoke being won and won well?

And wasn’t it Cancer Research UK that recently published a report stating that the biggest drop in the number of smokers on record came in the ‘young persons’ bracket?

Thanks to my old chestnut of ‘education rather than legislation’ kids today are wiser – smarter and realize that not only is smoking uncool – it will kill you [it’s becoming more and more obvious vaping doesn’t].

Amazing isn’t it what happens when you’re given the facts and can make a choice.

But I digress – I mean let’s face it if there’s one area of health research that’s become a fashionable research cash cow it’s the perceived ‘dangers of vaping’.

I have tried to estimate the amount of cash flooding into research studies on vaping this year alone and can’t find an exact figure – let’s just say and judging by the amount of them – it’s probably ‘shed loads’.

Add ‘what about the kiddies’ to the mix and as this ‘grant’ has proved charities are falling over themselves to throw money at researchers.

Professor Hughes almost admits the obvious:

A great deal of controversy surrounds the extent to which e-cigarettes might act as a ‘gateway’ to smoking, and might be exploited by tobacco companies as a new means of recruiting a generation of nicotine dependents.

However, equally, e-cigarettes might offer a way for young smokers to switch to a safer source of nicotine or to stop entirely.

The study focuses on the social and material conditions under which some users might switch from vaping to smoking, or indeed from smoking to vaping, or perhaps even towards full cessation.

It explores the interaction between social learning, media influences, peer networks, and a range of socio-economic factors in influencing the different usage trajectories of adolescent vapers.

Sounds great and yeah it’s important we know if rich kids vape and smoke more than poor kids…sorry I was being a little ‘snippy there’.

OK from what I understand vaping might stop kids smoking – vaping doesn’t appear to kill you and most kids vape nic free – can I have my quarter of a million now please.

I shall look forward to the results – not that I’m expecting anything ‘earth shattering’.

The Kids Are Alright

OK when I say kids I mean teenagers – even I draw the line at my 8-year-old grandson vaping on zero nic.

Hands up who had their first fag behind the bike sheds after it was handed to them by an older kid?

children smoking
me on the left…probably…[via: catsmob.com]
I was definitely one of those – but back then as an 8-year-old in 1969 *gulps* – smoking was everywhere – everyone did it and believe it or not it was the coolest thing you could do.

Now a generation later my son at the same age as I was when I puffed on my first Embassy Number 6 [remember them lol] – he’s now 31 – badgered me and his mom for years to quit the cigs.

He’s never smoked in his life and neither has his large group of friends who have remarkably all stayed in touch.

That’s anecdotal for sure but certainly reflective of current trends – young folk tend to think smoking is disgusting and deadly.

That’s a whole generation armed with the facts making their own choices – remember smoking levels are at an all-time low here in the UK.

I’m mentioning my son because him and his crowd were skateboard dudes and the other day on a rare visit to a town centre pub [coughs] I watched a bunch of what looked like 13 to 17 year-olds ‘grinding’ on the town hall steps and hand rails.

After the skate session one of them pulled out a Smok Morph and proceeded to blow huge clouds – which interestingly enough were pretty much ignored by his mates.

Intrigued I went over – running the risk of being called ‘an old perv’ lol – and asked how old he was – how long he’d been vaping and what strength nicotine he was vaping on.

He was reluctant to give me many details but after seeing my set-up [and impressed I knew the word ‘grinding’ in skateboard parlance] he told me he was 16 and had smoked for ‘about’ 3 years and his mom had bought him an e-cig to get him off the fags a few months ago – cool mom!

It was shit and I still smoked rollies…it was one of those pen things – but my Uncle got me this [Smok Alien and Baby Beast] for my birthday and I haven’t had a fag since.

He told me.

To keep him in e-liquid his mom goes online to get his weekly supply of you’ve guessed it fruit flavoured 3mg but he’s thinking about dropping to zero mg soon as he ‘didn’t see the point in nicotine’.

He couldn’t explain why he didn’t see the point in nicotine – he just ‘felt it’.

None of the other half a dozen or so kids with him smoked or vaped with one 13-year-old telling me it looks cool but he was worried about his lungs – you need lung power for skateboarding!

I know that’s a tiny little snippet into kids and vaping and purely anecdotal but that’s a third generation of kids well aware of the dangers of smoking with one who began smoking at 13-years-old now vaping because he saw it as healthier.

So is he right to reduce the strength of nicotine he’s vaping?

Adolescents and Nicotine

He just might be – though saying that hard facts are almost impossible to come by.

According to some research nicotine acts differently in the brain of adolescents to that of fully formed adults.

Nicotine

US based Smoke Free says:

In adolescence, your brain is still “under construction”—as a result, it responds differently to the effects of nicotine than the adult brain.

Nicotine is the drug in cigarettes (and other forms of tobacco) that produces addiction. Like heroin and cocaine, nicotine acts on the brain’s “reward pathways” to create feelings of satisfaction and pleasure.

The developing brain is highly sensitive to the addictive properties of nicotine. Many teens show signs of addiction even at low levels of tobacco use. Exposure to nicotine during adolescence may alter brain development, rewiring the brain for addiction.

Whilst I despise lumping nicotine in with heroin purely for the shock effect I’m sure – I’m no scientist and can only go with what that piece of research has shown.

However this study has been done around young people and smoking – not vaping.

And that ‘rewiring the brain for addiction‘ seems a quantum leap – I must try and find medical evidence of that…

Despite an extensive search of the net I haven’t been able to find any decent research on the effects the nicotine in e-liquids could have on the developing teenage body and brain.

Yes there’s ‘suggestions’ and dire warnings from so called experts – but as yet there’s not an academic paper I can find. [If you can please let me know!]

You can possibly see the reasons why though – I mean what parent would want their child to be a guinea pig for such testing and indeed what are the ethics of such a study?

So we’re left with half-truths and innuendos – much as the rest of the vape science out there – but one thing has to be certain – vaping IS 95% healthier than smoking and therefore any adolescent would make a better choice vaping rather than smoking – if I hasten to add they felt the need to make that choice – results seem to show the kids are indeed moving away from both!

Look let’s face it from 12 onward kids experiment and engage in risky behaviours it’s part of the maturing cycle and certainly almost a ‘rite of passage’.

Look I’m not saying let every kid out there vape – but I am saying I’d rather see a bunch of kids vaping than sucking on disgusting roll-ups or counterfeit fags.

Like my son and his mates and the skaters I met have shown the youngsters of today are moving away from smoking – sure some will still dabble and some will get hooked – which is sad to say the least.

But at least these days and when they decide enough is enough – e-cigarettes will be there as a much healthier alternative to quit for good.

Unless of course the Governments – the media and that never end list of ill-informed fake scientists continue to promote their own darker agendas.

So…

What are your thoughts on teen vaping? Do we have a teen vaping epidemic? Is vaping a gateway to smoking for teens?

Let us know in the comments below and don’t hold back!

Sources

Neil Humber
I began vaping in 2012 and found it easy to give up a 40 per day roll-up habit! DTL: Lost Vape DNA75C BF - Dead Rabbit SQ - MTL: JacVapour Sandstorm DNA 75 + Savour RTA...Beater set-up Lost Vape DNA 250c and Reload RTA I'm a former journalist and now a writer and author.. I'm an Army veteran - adore dogs and never happier than with a good book on a beach.

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