Scots experts found the majority of young people interviewed said that vaping had reduced the possibility of themselves and others smoking, according to a paper presented at a major tobacco conference in Poland.
Fears have been raised in the past that the sweet flavours and colourful packaging could make vaping “a gateway” habit to smoking tobacco.
However, this study is the latest to rebut concerns that the rise of vaping would encourage more young people to start smoking.
Dr Neil McKeganey, from the Centre for Substance Use Research in Glasgow, said: “There was very little indication amongst the young
people interviewed that e-cigarettes were resulting in an increased likelihood of young people smoking.
“In fact the majority we interviewed, including those who were vaping, perceived smoking in very negative terms and saw vaping as being entirely different to smoking.”
Most participants – which included current and former smokers, non-smokers, and e-cigarette users – viewed tobacco as “extremely harmful”, stating that e-cigarettes offered smokers a safer and less toxic alternative.
Smokers were urged to use e-cigarettes to help them quit in the strongest guidance yet from the Royal College of Physicians earlier this year.
However confusion exists over potential harm from vaping, as top doctors have acknowledged more research needs to be done into the risks, such as potential harm caused by inhaling chemicals.
Dr McKeganey said: “What was apparent is that this persistent view, expressed by some young people, that vaping was just as harmful as smoking, was resulting in some young people continuing to smoke when they might otherwise have quit.
“But what was equally clear from our research is that the much debated ‘gateway’ theory is not materialising.
“There was nothing to suggest that youngsters see vaping as a stepping stone to smoking – quite the opposite.”
Smoking remains a major health problem in Scotland, leading to around 10,000 deaths per year.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health Scotland, said: “The evidence we have suggests that smoking a tobacco cigarette is more harmful, more expensive and more addictive than using an electronic cigarette.
“We would like our young people to grow up free from any addictive substances, but believe that e-cigarettes can have a beneficial impact if young people vape when they would otherwise have smoked, or if they help young people stop using tobacco.
“Our hope is that electronic cigarettes help to reduce the number of people in Scotland using tobacco and help the next generation grow up with tobacco out of sight, out of mind and out of fashion.”