Regular vaping by young adult Australians is rare
Posted on December 22, 2018
There is very little information on how many young adults vape in Australia. However, two recent studies have confirmed that regular vaping in this group is rare, especially among those who have never smoked.
A study by Melka et al published today in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine surveyed nearly 9,000 young women with an average age of 22 years.
The study found that only 1.6% of the women who had never smoked (142 in total) had tried vaping (even a puff) in the last 12 months
Although the frequency of vaping was not measured, the number of regular vapers who had never-smoked is likely to be very small indeed. Based on other studies, probably no more than 0.5%.
Many studies have shown that use by young non-smokers is mostly experimental, often just once or twice. Many do not use nicotine. Occasional use of vaping is of negligible importance to public health.
Regular vaping exposes users to higher risk, but is still far less harmful than smoking.
Of course some of the young never-smokers who vaped regularly may otherwise have smoked. Vaping may be diverting them from a much more harmful and addictive habit.
The vast bulk of vaping was by young women who were already smoking. 60% of smokers had tried vaping and 14% of ex-smokers. Many of these young people would be using vaping as a quitting aid, a positive step towards better health.
Anti-vaping advocates have tried to spin these results to suggest that youth vaping is a big problem for young people in Australia.
However, the figures speak for themselves.
Another recent Australian study by Jongenelis et al of 1,116 18-25 year-old men and women found that 9% (104 people) had used an e-cigarette in the last 30 days. Most users were smokers and regular use by never-smokers was rare. Only 6 never-smokers vaped regularly (weekly or more).
These results are similar to overseas studies of adolescents, which have found that among those who have never smoked, regular use of vaping products is rare. In the United Kingdom, 0.1-0.5% of never smoking youth vape regularly (10 days or more per month. In the United States, only 0.3% of never-smokers vape regularly (>20 days per month).
Is nicotine harmful to the developing brain?
Young people should not vape, but the reality is that many will try it. Kids experiment, mostly only for a short time. Some but not all use nicotine. As the brain is developing, some have raised concerns that nicotine may harm the developing brain.
Nicotine is active in the brain. It has known pharmacological effects and can change brain circuitry. However, although other chemicals in inhaled smoke are toxic, there is no scientific evidence that nicotine harms the developing brain in humans. There have been rodent studies showing harmful effects, but the relevance of these to humans is unclear.
If nicotine was harmful to the adolescent brain, where are all the brain damaged adults from the millions of people who started as teens and smoked for decades?
It is also theorised that nicotine may sensitise the brain to other drugs and increase the risk of substance abuse. However, there is no evidence to support this theory in humans.
We need more research to fully understand the impact of vaping and the overall effect on the health of young people.
However, one thing we know for sure is that adolescent rats should definitely not smoke.
Posted by Colin Mendelsohn, email@example.com