E-Cigarettes, Heroin, And The Gateway Theory
The gateway theory debunked yet again!
Judging from the comments on my recent post about a fear-mongeringWNBC story warning that e-cigarettes encourage drug use by teenagers, I should have more clearly stated what I thought was obvious: I do not agree that “e-cigarettes lead to heroin” (as I sarcastically summarized the story’s message), and WNBC presents no evidence to back up that claim.
Even if cannabis consumers rarely try heroin, it remains true that people who use marijuana are more likely to try heroin than people who never smoke pot. The question is how to interpret that association: Does smoking pot make people more likely to try heroin, or is it just that the sort of people who are apt to try marijuana are also more likely to be attracted to heroin? If the former, is the process pharmacological or social? To what extent is it a product of laws that assign the two drugs to the same category? I discuss these and related issues in a 2003 Reason essay that clarifies the questions raised by claims like Smith’s and places them in historical context.
Since some readers seemed to think I had joined the campaign against vaping, I should add that even if e-cigarettes do make it easier for teenagers to consume marijuana (as WNBC suggests), that would be no reason to stand in the way of adults who want to use them.