E-cigarettes are playing a key role in reducing the likelihood of young people smoking, in many cases acting as a ‘roadblock’ to combustible tobacco, a new study has claimed.
In detailed qualitative interviews with young people aged 16 to 25 in UK, the majority of participants viewed e-cigarettes as having reduced - not increased - the possibility of both themselves and other people smoking.
“There was very little indication amongst the young people interviewed that e-cigarettes were resulting in an increased likelihood of young people smoking,” said Neil McKeganey from Centre for Substance Use Research in Scotland, who led the research.
“In fact the majority we interviewed, including those who were vaping, perceived smoking in very negative terms and saw vaping as being entirely different to smoking,” McKeganey said.
Importantly, the overwhelming majority of participants - who collectively represented current and former smokers, non-smokers, and e-cigarette users - viewed tobacco as ‘extremely harmful’ and believed e-cigarettes offered smokers an alternative.
Despite the acute awareness of the harms of tobacco however, it was evident that some young people remain confused about e-cigarettes and whether or not they are similarly harmful.
Some mentioned they had seen media coverage reporting that e-cigarettes “are just as bad” as smoking and, as a result, they were uncertain and reluctant about using the devices.
“It’s more concerning, particularly for the young people who currently smoke, that inaccurate perceptions of e-cigarettes could result in the persistent use of combustible tobacco irrespective of the fact that Public Health England has concluded vaping is 95 per cent less harmful than conventional cigarettes,” said McKeganey.
“What was apparent is that this persistent view, expressed by some young people, that vaping was just as harmful as smoking, was resulting in some young people continuing to smoke when they might otherwise have quit,” he said.
There was nothing to suggest in the research that youngsters see vaping as a stepping stone to smoking - quite the opposite, he added.