A report released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, based on the annual Monitoring the Future (MFT) survey, indicates that negative ‘gateway theory’ comments about vaping made by US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy are somewhat incorrect.
Murthy recently demanded harsher control on vaping products, as he believes that younger people would move on to traditional cigarettes if they start vaping.
While already trying to recover from the introduction of the FDA’s Deeming rule last year, the e-cigarette industry was in relative shock that a medical professional held in such high regard could make a statement that has already been debunked in several studies around the world by respected institutions, including the Royal College of Physicians in London.
The new figures have shown that the number of students who smoke in the US have dropped by the largest amount in history. Moreover, the number of students who vape has also dropped, making it clear that vaping resolutely does not lead to an increase in traditional cigarette smoking by children.
Criticisms of vaping appear unfounded
Many scientists believe that Murthy is heavily against the use of vaping products; and that he may well have been aware of the survey’s results when he conveniently released his report the previous week, according to health activist Dr Michael Siegel:
“It is interesting that the Surgeon General released his report just prior to the release of this new data. Perhaps he realised that once [the data] came out, his “story” about the scourge of e-cigarettes would be destroyed.”
Considering the job description for the US Surgeon General is to promote good health and look after the wellbeing of the population, many feel it is perhaps worrying that a man with such influence would be so callous as to deride an innovation that has the potential to save millions of lives.
It may also help to unburden health services around the world, which spend billions on those whose lives have been ruined by smoking.
What is gateway theory?
Since the 1930s, many products and substances have been demonised through the use of phrases applied to their use including stepping-stone theory, escalation hypothesis, or progression hypothesis.
A more common phrase based on these earlier ideas originated in the 1980s and is referred to as ‘gateway theory’. The premise is that certain products and substances introduce the consumer to a larger family of products and substances that are more harmful than the former.
A prime example is that of marijuana, a drug that was vilified during the ‘reefer madness’ crackdown of the 1950s, under the assumption that it would cause users to seek greater and greater highs by using stronger and stronger drugs.
Although this belief was quickly found to have no basis in scientific fact, the Nixon and Reagan administrations were happy to ignore this research to further their idealistic ‘War on Drugs’ – a war that is now considered to have wasted billions of dollars of public funds with no success, considering the continued legalisation of marijuana across the country, as well as filling prisons with non-violent offenders who in retrospect should have been given a community order or simply a fine.
Gateway theory has in the past been used as a political tool by businesses or politicians who wish to prevent the proliferation of products that are not compatible with their beliefs or agenda and since the launch of e-cigarettes, there are many in positions of power who feel that vaping is a danger to the public for the aforementioned reasons.
When vaping products were first made available to the public, anti-smoking campaigners failed to see the health benefits of the product, instead believing that the product itself would cause non-smokers to become addicted to nicotine, and ultimately find themselves smoking traditional cigarettes for a better ‘hit’.
While this theory has been dismissed by many experts, it is only recently that politicians and anti-smoking campaigners have begun to see the value of a safer alternative to smoking that works as a cessation device.