Vaping May Be a Gateway to Cigarette Smoking for Teens, Study Says

February 1, 2019, 11:15 PM UTC

A new study shows that what public health experts have feared about teen vaping is true. Teenagers who try e-cigarettes are more likely to pick up smoking traditional cigarettes later, according to new research published in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers found that young people whose first tobacco product was an e-cig were more likely to start using traditional tobacco products during the next two years. The study authors note this is only an association, not necessarily causation, meaning they can’t prove that vaping is a gateway drug. But they did see that teens who start with e-cigarettes may be more likely to initiate cigarette smoking.

This has been the big concern about vape products, including flavored tobacco e-cig pods like Juul, which regulators say are marketed to young people. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been running anti-vaping prevention advertisements in high schools and in 2018, the agency demanded that the major e-cigarette manufacturers submit plans on curbing the teen vaping epidemic by self-restricting sales and marketing.

But it’s a weird week for e-cigarette research news, as on Wednesday, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine explained how e-cigarettes may help adults quit smoking if they are addicted to traditional cigarettes. In that study, e-cigs were shown to be twice as effective as cigarette cessation treatments such as nicotine patches and gums. So for adults already addicted to cigarettes, the electronic version may be a helpful alternative. But for teens who have yet to start smoking? Not so much.