With the advent of e-cigarettes, many public health experts hoped it would continue the overall trend of decline in cigarette use.
Initially, e-cigarettes were intended for adults only and used as a cessation tool to help them wean off nicotine.
Instead, it became a drug for middle and high school students. The use of e-cigarettes among teenagers surpassed cigarettes as the most prevalent tobacco product for the first time in 2014 and has remained thus ever since.
Some health experts have debated what impact e-cigs have had on youth tobacco use.
One group argues that it’s a “gateway,” which later leads to other forms of tobacco use. One group claims that it’s a “diversion” that keeps kids away from those more dangerous forms of tobacco (cigarettes, dip, etc.).
One study seems to favor the “Gateway” argument. Science Direct published a study that followed thirteen non-consecutive years of NYTS date (2002-2019) to determine the prevalence of past 30-day cigarette smoking over time as it correlates to e-cigarette use.
The study found that historic declines in adolescent cigarette smoking (from 2002 to 2013) slowed with the advent of the “e-cigarette era.” On a population level, they observed a “gateway effect” from e-cigarette use to cigarette use, encompassing an increase in cigarette smoking and measurable impediments to reducing youth tobacco use overall.
In other words: just like that long-mocked “gateway drug” concept people often apply (erroneously) to cannabis, there may be an effect among e-cigarettes that compels kids to move on to tobacco instead of stopping at just the vape pens.