Demystifying the Gateway Theory of vaping

Demystifying the Gateway Theory of vaping

The rise in popularity of electronic cigarettes and their related products has never existed without controversy. One of the statements that has greatly influenced decision-making by governments and institutions has been the “gateway theory of vaping”.

Naturally, drug abuse by adolescents and young people is a great concern for society. However, are the accusations raised in this theory against vaping fair?

Our partners in Spain, at Vapori, help us unravel the details that refute this theory, to help demystify it. 

What is the gateway theory of vaping?

The gateway theory basically states that some types of drugs can become the gateway to the consumption of other drugs. Thus, for example, the use of certain narcotic substances can make a person decide to try others with similar effects.

Now, adjusted to vaping, the gateway theory suggests that many young people who may never have had an interest in cigarettes will end up smoking.

In this way, they try to reinforce the idea that vaping is something negative, and that it should be banned.

This is what the theory proposes, but can it be supported by real evidence? 

Let's debunk the theory...

Although the gateway theory of vaping can be supported to some extent, the reality is that there is evidence to support the opposite idea. Making it clear that in reality, vaping not only does not turn young people into smokers, but also prevents it to a great extent: 

1. Many young people are just experimenting, as they would with the cigarette

Most studies that support the gateway theory of vaping associate vaping and cigarette consumption, only reporting figures in a 30-day time frame. This includes occasional or experimental smokers, and even those who have smoked only one cigarette. This definitely makes the prevalence figures for regular cigarette use pretty exaggerated.

A study carried out by researchers from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Buffalo, in the United States, found that 3 out of 4 young people who try cigarettes do not progress to daily use of it. 

2. Not even 50% of young people vape with nicotine

As expected, not all adolescents who vape use e-liquids or disposable vapes with nicotine, as the explanation of the gateway theory would require.

A survey carried out in the United Kingdom in 2019 showed that adolescents between the ages of 11 and 18 who used electronic cigarettes, only 31.7% used nicotine-containing e-liquids more frequently, while 34.2% said they only occasionally vaped with nicotine, and 19.6% never used vaping products with nicotine, to complete the survey with 14.4% of young people who had no idea if the products they used contained nicotine or not. 

3. Regular vaping is rare for young people who have never vaped

Many studies show that most teens who vape do so experimentally and infrequently. In fact, less than 1% of those who have never smoked start vaping, according to international surveys. 

Conclusion: Cigarette still precedes vaping, and not vice versa

These and some other facts contribute to weakening the support of the gateway theory of vaping. In reality, smoking still precedes vaping, and not the other way around: So most young people who try vaping are already cigarette smokers who have smoked previously.

In conclusion, vaping is still a safer option than smoking, even for young people who are experiencing new things due to the natural curiosity of age, peer pressure, etc. But ideally it should be used responsibly, because even if vape is not a gateway to smoking, there are unnecessary risks that adolescents and young adults can avoid by staying away from both, e-cigarettes and cigarettes.