A new study has revealed that vaping may pave the way for non-smokers to start smoking.
The study was conducted by Andre Mason, a postgraduate student at the University of Otago, and Associate Professor Damian Scarf from the Department of Psychology. This collaborative research, featured in the Drug and Alcohol Review on Wednesday, June 28, examined data regarding smoking and vaping behaviors among New Zealanders from the 2018-2020 New Zealand Attitudes and Values survey.
Associate Professor Scarf noted that overall, smoking prevalence was declining, while vaping prevalence was on the rise for non-smokers. Notably, there were no discernible differences in the likelihood of transitioning between smoking and vaping, implying that both pathways were equally probable.
The survey results covered a three-year period starting in 2018. The percentage of survey respondents who smoked decreased at each interval (7.4%, 6.2%, and 5.2%), whereas the prevalence of those who vaped increased (2.8%, 2.9%, and 3.4%).
In 2018, those who vaped showed a higher inclination to start smoking, while the reverse occurred in 2019.
Vaping is gaining momentum worldwide, with recent estimates indicating Aotearoa New Zealand has the second-highest rates of ever using (15.5%) or currently using (7.8%) nicotine vaping products globally. In 2022, approximately 81 million individuals vaped globally, marking a 39% increase from 58 million in 2018 and a staggering 103% surge from 21 million in 2012.
Mr. Mason initially saw vaping as a quitting aid but notes inconsistent evidence supporting this.
In contrast to other studies, the researchers did not find consistent evidence supporting vaping as a pathway to quit smoking. Instead, they noticed frequent transitions between smoking and vaping. While many individuals continued their reported behavior, there were those who switched between smoking and vaping, Mr. Mason highlighted.
Vaping and Smoking Trends: Insights and Policy Implications
The results provide valuable insight into the potential adverse effects of vaping and highlights the necessity for more stringent policies. Vaping appears to be another smoking behavior, not a primary quitting substitute, contrary to expectations.
The declining prevalence of smoking over time may not be solely attributed to vaping’s cessation effect. Other factors, like health-focused anti-smoking campaigns and higher cigarette costs, may also play a significant role.
Furthermore, this alarming discovery indicates vaping may promote smoking initiation as much as aiding cessation.
These findings emphasize the need for comprehensive harm reduction policy discussions, as vaping’s relative safety shouldn’t lead to lenient regulations.