But David Abrams, executive director of the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at the Legacy Foundation, an antismoking research group, said the study’s data do not support that conclusion.
“I am quite certain that a survey would find that people who have used nicotine gum are much more likely to be smokers and to have trouble quitting, but that does not mean that gum is a gateway to smoking or makes it harder to quit,” he said.
He argued that there were many possible reasons that students who experimented with e-cigarettes were also heavier smokers — for example, living in a home where people smoke, belonging to a social circle where smoking is more common, or abusing drugs or alcohol.
The study did have a bright spot: Youths who used e-cigarettes were more likely to plan to quit smoking. Dr. Abrams highlighted that finding, but said it was impossible to tell whether students who planned to quit actually did, because the data did not track this.