In separate statements yesterday, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) publicly claimed that electronic cigarettes are a gateway to smoking.
In an article in the New Haven Register, Senator Blumenthal was quoted as stating: "These products are essentially a gateway to smoking. ... E-cigarettes are the new Joe Camel."
In a CBS New York article, Senator Charles Schumer was quoted as stating: "Instead of being harmless, e-cigarettes are actually a gateway to conventional smoking, particularly for kids. That's the problem."
Both senators appear to be regurgitating information they probably heard as a result of propaganda produced by CDC and by Stan Glantz.
The CDC concluded, from a cross-sectional survey showing that youth who use e-cigarettes are almost exclusively smokers, that vaping is a gateway to smoking addiciton. However, this study could not determine whether the e-cigarette use preceded or followed the tobacco cigarette use.
Glantz's research also generated widespread media headlines announcing that electronic cigarette use is a gateway to smoking, even though his study was also a cross-sectional one and he himself admitted that one cannot determine whether smokers in his study might have started smoking first and tried electronic cigarettes second.
The Rest of the Story
The assertions by the CDC, by Stan Glantz, by Senator Blumenthal, and by Senator Schumer are completely unsubstantiated by actual scientific data. In fact, there is no scientific evidence to support the conclusion that they have all disseminated to the public: that electronic cigarettes are a gateway to smoking.
The most recent data that examined this issue, reported yesterday by researchers in the UK, found that in Great Britain, electronic cigarettes are not serving as a gateway to smoking. These researchers concluded that: "There is no evidence of regular electronic cigarette use among children who have never smoked or who have only tried smoking once."
The study found that very few neversmokers try electronic cigarettes and that of those who do, virtually none go on to become regular users: "Of those who had never smoked a cigarette, 99% reported never having tried electronic cigarettes and 1% reported having tried them “once or twice.”"
The rest of the story is that despite the public statements of the CDC, Stan Glantz, and two U.S. senators, current evidence does not support the conclusion that electronic cigarettes are a gateway to smoking. Why, then, are public health agencies, anti-smoking researchers, and politicians disseminating these unsupported conclusions to the public?
Quite simply, they are spreading misinformation to the public because the truth just doesn't support their ideological opposition to electronic cigarettes. When the science doesn't back up your position, then you are left with the need to lie to the public or to mislead people in order to support your position.
The evidence that electronic cigarettes are contributing substantially to the protection of the public's health is so strong that opponents are unable to counter this evidence with science or with factual arguments. Instead, they have to resort to a campaign of misinformation. Senators Blumenthal and Schumer, spurred on by the CDC, are conducting just such a campaign.