Researchers from the University of Victoria say there is no evidence vaping acts as a gateway to cigarette smoking in young people.

"We were pleasantly surprised," said study co-author Dr. Marjorie MacDonald. "This is a very common thing that you hear among our tobacco control colleagues."

The study, "Clearing the Air: A systematic review on the harms and benefits of e-cigarettes and vapour devices", reviewed 170 relevant journal articles to come up with four conclusions:

  • There is no evidence using a vaping device makes a young person more likely to start smoking cigarettes.
  • It appears vaping can be as effective as other nicotine replacement devices used in quitting smoking. 
  • Second hand exposure to vapour is less harmful than exposure to tobacco smoke. 
  • Vapour from e-cigarettes is less toxic than smoke from tobacco cigarettes.

Nicotine, but no tar

Battery-powered e-cigarettes and vapour devices work by turning liquid nicotine into an inhalable vapour that doesn't contain the harmful tar generated by regular cigarettes.

"If you're comparing cigarette smoking to the use of a vaping device, I would have to say that cigarette smoking is more harmful," said MacDonald.

Still, vaping has many critics.

Last month the U.S. Surgeon General warned that e-cigarettes have the potential to create a new generation of kids addicted to nicotine. 

But MacDonald says some research has found that prohibiting young people from vaping may in fact be counterproductive from a public health standpoint. 

"In the U.S. there are some states that have banned the sale of vaping devices to young people and in those states the rates of cigarette smoking are higher than in states that do not ban vaping devices," she said.

MacDonald added that besides more research, the next step is to standardize vaping equipment.

"The big issue is that we need to regulate these devices so there are standards to producing safe devices."

In November, the federal government announced legislation to regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling and production of vaping and e-cigarette devices and products.