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How Are They Getting It?

The idea that vaping encourages people to smoke has been a popular misconception since vaping started to become popular. This is also true of the myth that vaping encourages teenagers to become smokers.
Research has shown that vaping doesn’t encourage people to take up smoking, in fact vaping almost doubles the chances of smokers successfully quitting for good. And organisations like Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians agree with these findings.
With so much research and support showing that vaping doesn’t encourage anyone to take up smoking, it might be surprising that a recent headline claims the opposite. One story from an online news outlet stated that teenagers who tried e-cigarettes were twelve times more likely to start smoking tobacco.
This is a shocking headline, but is it accurate? The short answer is no.
The story is based on research carried out by King’s College London, the University of Nottingham, Public Health England and Action on Smoking and Health. Researchers surveyed more than a thousand young people from across the United Kingdom, asking about their use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes over a six month period.

How True Are The Studies?

The research provides much stronger evidence that the majority of vapers started out as smokers, not the other way around.
Vaping has been proven to almost double the chances of smokers successfully quitting for good. And organisations like the Royal College of Physicians agree that vaping is around ninety-five percent less harmful than smoking. This is why most vapers turned to vaping in the first place to help them give up cigarettes.
Nicotine is highly addictive and it’s not surprising that people would be worried by the idea of teenagers smoking or vaping. However, the research that this alarming headline is based on doesn’t show strong evidence that vaping is a gateway to smoking.


Researchers used information from a survey of 1,152 people aged between eleven and eighteen. Data was collected at the start and end of a six month period to determine whether there was a link between using e-cigarettes and going on to start smoking. The original data was taken from the 2016 Action on Smoking and Health Great Britain Youth longitudinal survey, which was focused on the effects of smoking among teenagers.
Surveys like this can be a useful way of spotting patterns, but they rely on large numbers of people and don’t provide much information on what might be causing these patterns.

At the beginning of the six month period, participants filled out questionnaires, so the answers were self-reported and may not be completely accurate. Depending on their answers, participants were categorised as smokers or nonsmokers as well as vapers or non-vapers.
After four-to-six months the participants filled out questionnaires again to see if their smoking or vaping habits had changed since the first questionnaire. The researchers also used information about age, gender, alcohol use, family or friends who smoked or vaped and other factors to minimise the chances of their findings being skewed.

Results From Research

The headline about this research claimed that there was strong evidence that vaping was a gateway to smoking among teenagers, but the results of the actual study are not strong at all. Because the study only took place over a six month period and only a small number of the participants were relevant to the issue of vaping leading to smoking, the results are not reliable.
Although the survey involved 1,152 participants, the number who reported that they vaped but never smoked at the start of the study was much smaller. Of the 923 participants who reported that they’d never smoked at the start of the study, only 21 said that they had vaped.
This means that less than two percent of participants were relevant to the question of whether teenagers who vape are more likely to go on to smoke, which makes it difficult to make strong conclusions.
The online article stated that teenagers who vaped but hadn’t smoked were twelve times more likely to go on to smoke than those who had never vaped or smoked before. However, because of the small sample size, these results have a wide confidence interval, meaning that there is a high chance that they’re not accurate.
It’s also important to remember that this research is based on self-reported data gathered through questionnaires, meaning that the original data may not be exact either.
The researchers concluded that there was evidence of a positive association between teenage vapers being more likely to take up smoking and teenage smokers being more likely to take up vaping. But these results are based on a small number of participants and unlikely to be accurate, so more research is needed to understand any possible link between vaping and smoking and what might be responsible for that link.


The researchers used data from a survey into the smoking habits of teenagers to evaluate whether there was a link between taking up vaping and going on to take up smoking. The results suggested that their might be a link, but the data doesn’t provide firm evidence as the small number of participants who were relevant to this issue makes the results uncertain. More research is needed to discover how accurate these initial findings are.
The research shows a stronger link between people who never smoked and never went on to vape. This suggests that vaping is much more appealing to people who smoke and that non-smokers are significantly less likely to try vaping. Other research has shown that the majority of vapers turned to vaping to help them quit smoking and that vaping almost doubles the chances of smokers quitting for good.

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