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Landmark Study Fails To Find Evidence That Vaping Is A Gateway To Youth Smoking

There have been a handful of studies in recent years that set out to prove that vaping is a gateway to smoking among youth, but this idea is typically not reflected in the resulting data. One of the most recent is a study from PATH (Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health), which attempted to prove the existence of this link, but actually ended up doing the opposite as the study failed to find any evidence to support the theory.

Study Details

We'll get into the details surrounding the results of the study soon, but first, let's discuss exactly how this study was conducted. First of all, it's very important to remember that this was the largest ever study of youth smoking initiation. Consequently, the data is likely the most accurate regarding the subject to date.

This study was conducted in two waves, the first starting in 2013 and ending in 2014 and the second starting in 2014 and ending in 2015. This was a survey-based study that included questions about smoking and vaping, and it included questions regarding the subject's frequency of use with each.

PATH's Results

PATH stated that their study's main finding indicated that regular e-cigarette use was a risk factor in regular cigarette use. Because of that wording, it looks like PATH has proven that vapes are an actual gateway to smoking among youth, right? Well, no, not really. Here's why.

PATH's claim that e-cigarette use is a gateway to cigarette use is based purely on correlation, and it doesn't have any real data to support it. In other words, they assumed that because there was an overlap in youth that smoked and youth that vaped, vaping was causing the youth to start smoking.

In order to prove causation, they'd at least have to prove that a number of these youth started vaping before they started smoking.

Their study simply doesn't show this. In fact, it shows the opposite. While emphasizing the correlation between smokers and vapers, they put little to no effort in emphasizing a much more significant finding.

Out of 12,000 participants, they couldn't report a single instance of a non-smoking, regular vape user later becoming a regular smoker. In other words, those that regularly vaped were shown to be less likely to regularly smoke.

PATH's Most Substantial Evidence Shows That Vaping Is NOT A Gateway

A non-smoking vaper turned smoker is what PATH would need in order to ethically indicate that vaping is a gateway to smoking. However, it seems that this hasn't even happened often enough for it to reflect in the largest study of youth smoking initiation in the world.

The aforementioned overlap between vapers and smokers clearly exists, but the vast majority of the participants that were dual-users were already smoking before they were vaping.

The overlap between vapers and smokers isn't even that surprising or significant, as it makes sense that two of the most common methods of nicotine consumption would share a lot of the same user base. However, PATH chose to emphasize this as opposed to the much more significant finding.

The fact that they couldn't show even a single instance of an individual regularly vaping and later regularly smoking is extremely significant. It disproves a very commonly accepted myth.

After all, how could vaping have inspired someone to smoke when they'd never even vaped upon lighting their first cigarette?

PATH's Main Findings

These studies are conducted in order to inform, but with this groundbreaking data at their disposal, PATH's main finding was basically that e-cigarettes have an impact on cigarette use and should, therefore, be targetted in early tobacco prevention among youth.

Obviously, young people should be prevented from vaping, as the legal age limit is 18. I don't think that most vapers would disagree with this. That isn't really the problem. The problem is that in their short conclusion, PATH said that vaping had a "differential impact on subsequent cigarette smoking uptake or reduction."

In lamens terms, that means that vaping may increase or decrease an individual's likelihood to smoke, and this just isn't reflected in their data. They lack any evidence supporting the idea that vaping could increase someone's likelihood of regular cigarette use.

For vaping to have a "differential impact," they'd need proof that vaping can increase or decrease an individual's likelihood to use cigarettes, and they would, therefore, need at least one documented instance of a regular vaper turning to regular cigarette use. However, their results don't show even a single example of this.


This is a very blatant example of how bias can sway people, even those that are committed to being fact-driven. In this case, PATH's bias became evident when they focused on the correlation between smoking and vaping as opposed to focusing on the far more significant finding.

They should focus on the aforementioned finding because it is often rumoured that vaping causes people to smoke, and the lack of even a single instance of this occurrence among 12,000 participants is extremely significant.

Numbers as significant as these should really catch their eye and demand more attention, but it doesn't seem that PATH is interested in focusing on what the evidence strongly suggests: that vaping isn't a gateway to smoking.

For smokers who are looking to quit, Vaper Empire offers a range of vape starter kits, e-liquids, and accessories. You can visit our online vape store here.

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