Vaping reduces, not increases, cigarette use in young people —
With use of e-cigarettes having been legalised in New Zealand, a UNSW medical researcher has challenged one of the leading arguments for a continuing ban in Australia – that nicotine vaping causes young people to take up smoking.
In a letter published in the Medical Journal of Australia, UNSW Conjoint Associate Professor Colin Mendelsohn says recent international reviews show that vaping is actually doing the opposite and diverting adolescents away from smoking.
“As vaping rates have been increasing in young people, smoking rates are rapidly declining,” he says.
“This is inconsistent with claims that vaping causes young people to take up smoking. If there is an effect, it is very small.”
Overseas studies show most vaping by young people is experimental and short lived, and regular vaping in teenagers is almost exclusively confined to those who already smoke.
“A recent analysis of five national surveys of 60,000 adolescents in the United Kingdom, where e-cigarettes are legal and widely available, found that less than 0.5 per cent of 11 -16 year olds who had never smoked were regular vapers (at least weekly),” he says.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat and vaporise a liquid to deliver nicotine to reduce the urge to smoke. Their use replicates the habits and rituals of smoking without the harmful tar, carbon monoxide and other toxic chemicals from burning tobacco.
Recent studies in populations in the US and UK have found that daily use is associated with higher success rates of quitting smoking than among non-users.
“Banning wider access to e-cigarettes on the basis of the unproven, potential risk to adolescents would prevent access to a life-saving quitting aid for millions of smokers,” says Associate Professor Mendelsohn.
“A better solution would be to employ strategies to minimise youth access and make vaping available for adult smokers who are otherwise unable to quit smoking with conventional therapies.”