E-cigarettes are not a gateway to smoking, according to new research


A study conducted by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) has found that there is no clear evidence that e-cigarettes promote smoking, and there is some tentative evidence that they may compete against traditional cigarettes, potentially speeding up the decline in smoking rates. However, the study emphasizes that further research is needed to understand the full impact of e-cigarettes and other alternative nicotine products on smoking behavior.

The study compared the use and sales of electronic cigarettes in the United Kingdom and the United States, where e-cigarettes are available, with Australia, where sales of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes are banned. It also examined the use of other nicotine alternatives in various countries, such as oral nicotine pouches in Sweden and heated tobacco products in Japan and South Korea.

The findings suggest that the decline in smoking rates has been slower in Australia compared to the UK and the USA, particularly among young people. Additionally, the decline in cigarette sales has accelerated more rapidly in the UK than in Australia. In Japan, the growth in sales of heated tobacco products was accompanied by a decrease in cigarette sales.

However, the study acknowledges that people may use both cigarettes and alternative nicotine products, making it challenging to determine the exact impact of these products on smoking prevalence. Longer-term data and more research are needed to draw firm conclusions about the relationship between e-cigarettes and smoking rates.

Professor Brian Ferguson, Director of the NIHR Public Health Research Programme, emphasized the value of the initial findings but stressed the need for further research to better understand the effects of alternative nicotine delivery products like e-cigarettes on smoking behavior.

As more prevalence and sales data become available, future analyses will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between alternative nicotine products and smoking rates. The NIHR plays a crucial role in supporting health and social care research in the UK and aims to improve public health and well-being through research initiatives and partnerships with the NHS, universities, and other research organizations.

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