Study: Youth E-Cig Access Regulations Increase Smoking Rates

Published December 4, 2015

A Yale University researcher has found a link between bans on e-cigarette use by youth under age 18 and increases in underage cigarette smoking rates.

The study, authored by Abigail Friedman, an associate professor of public health at Yale, contradicts government-sponsored studies suggesting e-cigarettes are a “gateway drug” to cigarettes among the underage population.

Not Comparable Goods

Dr. Gilbert Ross, executive director of the American Council on Science and Health, says e-cigarette use is a much healthier alternative for tobacco users.

“Under no circumstances can vaping be comparable in harm or risk to smoking combustible cigarettes,” Ross said. “The current mantra is e-cigs are 95 percent safer than cigarettes. It could be 99 percent, just as easily.” 

Unintended Consequences

Ross says hastily written regulations often lead to unintended consequences similar to those found in the Yale study.

“I would advise government at all levels, including regulators, to avoid overregulating products just for the sake of regulation,” Ross said. “Regulation which leads to restrictions on use and production of safe and useful products must be based on sound science. If there is no science indicating a risk, then do not regulate.”

Robert West, a professor of health psychology at the University College–London’s Health Behavior Research Centre, says regulating things based on possible risks, instead of actual risks, makes for harmful and ineffective policies.

“Some very vocal public health advocates argue that we should regulate e-cigarettes out of existence on the precautionary principle, just in case they undermine tobacco control in the future,” West said. “This study needs careful examination to assess the veracity of its claims, but it serves as a reminder that this principle works both ways.”