IVVA writes letter to Editor

The IVVA have written the following letter to the Editor of The Irish Times regarding a story published today on vaping among young people:

Dear Sir,

On the 18th of August, Jack Power reports on a study published in the Tobacco Control journal which looked at experimentation by British young people with e-cigarettes.

The study does not show, as the headline suggests, that “Vaping among young teens may increase likelihood of smoking”.

The key issue is not how many non smokers try vaping, but how many vape regularly, and how many having tried vaping, go on to smoke tobacco.

In Britain, research produced by ASH found that regular use of vape products amongst young people is rare and is confined almost entirely to those who currently or have previously smoked. Research at Queen Mary University in London found no evidence that a young person trying vaping for the first time goes on to become a regular vaper.

The UK now has the second lowest smoking rates in Europe, including among young people. The most recent survey conducted by ASH found the lowest recorded smoking rates among young people ever. In Scotland, the Scottish Health Survey found that smoking rates, including amongst young people, are at record low levels.

Vaping is not a gateway to smoking, and there is no evidence to suggest that it is. If it were, then smoking rates among both young people and adults in countries where vape products are widely available, including Ireland, would be increasing, not decreasing.

On this study, Prof. Robert West, Professor of Health Psychology at UCL, has said: “The authors of this study correctly warn readers that it cannot show a causal connection between using and e-cigarette and later smoking”.

Prof. Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling, has said: “This study does not provide evidence that using e-cigarettes causes young people to become smokers. It simply shows that some teenagers who try an e-cigarette might go on to try tobacco, and on both occasions it could be just once. If e-cigarettes were causing smoking, then the steady decline in youth smoking we’ve seen in national surveys in recent years would be reversed. But it’s not – smoking amongst young people in the UK is at an all-time low.”

The press release for this study has been criticised by Prof. Peter Hajek, Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) who correctly notes that young people who experiment with vaping are the same young people who are more likely to try smoking cigarettes anyway. This confounder is often ignored by researchers or journalists who go on to use headlines that don’t accuratley reflect study data. As a result, the general public and policy makers may end up being misled that there is a “gateway” between these two very different products.

Members of the Irish Vape Vendors Association do not sell vape products to young people but as a responsible trade association for the independent industry in Ireland, we do feel that studies on these products should be conducted and reported on accurately and fairly.

This reporting should include seeking commentary from experts in the field who can put study findings into their real world context.