Over time we are seeing a shift in patterns between those who smoke cigarettes and others that take up vaping. For instance, in France, we’re seeing that the number of youths deciding to smoke cigarettes changed significantly over a fifteen-year period between 2000-2017 in a comprehensive study. The main reason for this pointed towards a sharp increase among those less privileged. France is always looking for ways to reduce these numbers, in particular among teenagers, where preventing a switch to smoking cigarettes daily is important. Therefore, some cessation techniques such as gum, patches and more recently vaping appear to help.
In the UK, organisations like Cancer Research UK, the NHS and Public Health England back vaping as a useful tool to help smokers quit. They recommend this because there are far less toxic chemicals in a vape than a cigarette. However, in the media and consensus, the French and further afield in the US are worried that vaping may lead to teenagers eventually returning to cigarettes, or even starting to smoke because of vaping. If this is the case, it could be damaging for the next generation. However, some of this may be a myth and unnecessary hype with no evidence, as recent studies in France suggest.
Is Vaping a Gateway to Smoking in France?
This is an important question because the cigarette market is a troublesome addiction for teenagers already. In fact, for all of France, it’s believed around 32% smoke regularly as of 2015. To avoid an increase in this, useful replacement therapies are the way forward. Could vaping be one of them or is it, in fact, a nicotine habit that reminds smokers of what they miss? To investigate, the same group of scientists from Paris that completed the 2019 study of the correlation between smoking and vaping among teenagers aged between 17-18 completed another study in 2020.
The research found three key findings from Francois Beck, Bruno Falissard, Henri-Jean Aubin, Stanislas Spilka and lead scientist Stephane Legleye:
- How a variety of advertising companies present vaping to a younger audience could sway their thinking, popularising it.
- They questioned whether vaping is not a worthwhile tool, but a potential avenue back to smoking cigarettes
- A lack of research into its benefits could be costly and certainly necessary moving forward.
The conclusion from their research ended with a similar result. Based on the evidence, a teenager between 17-18 years of age picking e-cigarettes first was ‘reducing the risk of daily tobacco smoking’. Also, factors such as age and rules on smoking and using e-cigarettes did not change the positive effect vaping can have in reducing tobacco intake. Even if the teenager was more involved in smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes still influenced reducing the amount a 17-18 would want to smoke.
Plans for the Future
So how will these results impact the youth of today following the rise of the vaping industry? Can it help to reduce smoking? As studies show in the UK, smoking is still prevalent among young people. This needs to stop as we even know that second-hand smoke can be damaging to a person’s health. What’s required with vaping to progress is more research and studies to show its benefits. Preventing false theories like ‘popcorn lung’ which spread in the US will allow teenagers to reduce tobacco intake and nicotine consumption. Only then will we know if vaping is a beneficial tool to stop smoking. As the recent studies in France highlight, vaping is not directly leading to teenagers beginning to inhale cigarettes.