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Virginia Commonwealth University Vape Study

Virginia Commonwealth University Vape Study

Another day, another study on vaping in the United States, and unfortunately it appears another missed opportunity to meaningfully interpret the results. That's the takeaway from a recent analysis of a survey released by Virginia Commonwealth University.

The setup: researchers asked a series of questions about smoking and vaping to 3757 incoming freshmen last year, then queried them again about their habits a year later.

The bad: six students who had previously vaped but never smoked cigarettes ended up trying smoking over the course of the year. While it may seem low, that's a higher instance of smoking than was seen in students who had never vaped or smoked at the beginning of the study.

"Given that never-smoking participants who had tried e-cigarettes were more likely to initiate cigarette use later, limiting young adults' access to these products may be beneficial," conclude the study's authors.

While we're naturally critical of any suggestions that could lead to future regulations that could restrict or threaten the rights of adult vapers to responsibly enjoy themselves (and concerns exist about what specifically "limiting access" could mean), at Breazy we wholeheartedly support measures to keep any nicotine product out of the hands of those underage – that means enforcing a policy of never selling to anyone under the legal age to purchase tobacco, even if we believe our vendors' products in the long run will prove to be less damaging.

Still, while anti-vaping hawks grasp onto this element of the survey's findings, we turn to tobacco policy analyst and Boston University School of Public Health professor Dr. Michael Siegel, who points out what others missed…

The good: Siegel points to "A second finding, which is actually more critical than the first and more relevant to the question of whether vaping leads youth to progress to regular cigarette smoking."

The study's other conclusion?

"Current e-cigarette users at baseline were no more likely to progress to current smoking than young adults who were not using e-cigarettes."

As a matter of fact, to counteract those six vapers who'd become smokers (0.16% of overall survey participants), there were 20 who had previously been smokers but reported having switched to vaping, and another 45 who used both vape products and tobacco but had stopped smoking in favor of vaping only – that's nearly 11 times as many students who abandoned tobacco than picked it up!

The takeaway: despite news reports trumpeting the "gateway effect" of vaping to smoking that's been the main motivation for more and more restrictive vape laws, the very studies being used to back up these claims seem instead to find evidence exactly to the contrary. In what's increasingly becoming described as a post-factual society, skepticism seems more and more warranted.