smoking woman

Young people were more likely to try cigarettes if they had tried e-cigs and vice versa, sats the new ASH study

A new study has highlighted a potential ‘revolving door’ between cigarettes and e-cigs among young people.

Action on Smoking said the study, which it undertook with King’s College London among 11 to 18-year-olds, vindicated the UK’s policy approach to the sale of vaping products.

The research found that young people were more likely to try cigarettes if they had tried e-cigs and vice versa.

The Cancer Research UK-funded study used a 2,916-strong baseline of April 2016 and followed up among 1,152 young people between August and October the same year.

It found that those who had tried e-cigs were 12 times more likely to try smoking at follow-up than those who had never vaped. Those who had tried smoking were 3.5 times more likely to try e-cigs at follow-up compared with those who had never smoked.

It was, however, much more common for young people to have smoked than used e-cigs at the original questioning - only 21 young people had tried an e-cig but not smoked, compared with 118 who had tried smoking but not vaping.

ASH conceded more research involving larger sample sizes across multiple time points was needed to better understand how vaping and smoking behaviours were influenced, and it was impossible to say whether the young people questioned were becoming, or would become, regular smokers or vapers.

“This study provides reassurance that the UK policy approach is sensible. We have prohibited the sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s as a precaution,” said Ash chief executive Deborah Arnott.

“However, it remains the case that it is much more common that smoking will lead a young person to try vaping, perhaps out of curiosity but perhaps also in an attempt to quit the much more harmful habit.”

Katie East, lead author of the study from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, said the findings suggested that some young people progressed from trying e-cigs to trying tobacco cigarettes, but also that some went from trying cigarettes to e-cigs.

“With further research we hope to understand more about what is driving both behaviours. Nevertheless, vaping among newer smokers remains rare: only 21 of 923 newer smokers at the start of our study had tried e-cigarettes.”