Exploring the gateway hypothesis of e-cigarettes and tobacco: a prospective replication study among adolescents in the Netherlands and Flanders
Martinelli T, Candel MJJM, de Vries H, et al. Exploring the gateway hypothesis of e-cigarettes and tobacco: a prospective replication study among adolescents in the Netherlands and Flanders. Tobacco Control Published Online First: 05 July 2021. doi: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2021-056528
Background Studies demonstrated that adolescent e-cigarette use is associated with subsequent tobacco smoking, commonly referred to as the gateway effect. However, most studies only investigated gateways from e-cigarettes to tobacco smoking. This study replicates a cornerstone study revealing a positive association between both adolescent e-cigarette use and subsequent tobacco use; and tobacco and subsequent e-cigarette use in the Netherlands and Flanders.
Design The longitudinal design included baseline (n=2839) and 6-month (n=1276) and 12-month (n=1025) follow-up surveys among a school-based cohort (mean age: 13.62). Ten high schools were recruited as a convenience sample. The analyses involved (1) associations of baseline e-cigarette use and subsequent tobacco smoking among never smokers; (2) associations of e-cigarette use frequency at baseline and tobacco smoking frequency at follow-up; and (3) the association of baseline tobacco smoking and subsequent e-cigarette use among non-users of e-cigarettes.
Findings Consistent with prior findings, baseline e-cigarette use was associated with higher odds of tobacco smoking at 6-month (OR=1.89; 95% CI 1.05 to 3.37) and 12-month (OR=5.63; 95% CI 3.04 to 10.42) follow-ups. More frequent use of e-cigarettes at baseline was associated with more frequent smoking at follow-ups. Baseline tobacco smoking was associated with subsequent e-cigarette use (OR=3.10; 95% CI 1.58 to 6.06 at both follow-ups).
Conclusion Our study replicated the positive relation between e-cigarette use and tobacco smoking in both directions for adolescents. This may mean that the gateway works in two directions, that e-cigarette and tobacco use share common risk factors, or that both mechanisms apply.