Can E-Cigarettes Help People Quit Smoking? This Research Says No


Vaping e-cigarettes may not be useful in helping people quit smoking, a recent research suggests. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had earlier suggested that smokers could switch from puffing cigarettes to vaping e-cigarettes if they were unable to quit smoking. This came with one condition: smokers would have to completely switch to e-cigarettes and avoid relapsing to regular cigarettes. However, JAMA Network Open report suggests that e-cigarettes weren’t very helpful to keep smokers away from regular cigarettes. The study was carried out by Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at the University of California San Diego and Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat a heterogenous liquid to make an aerosol. The liquid is made of nicotine, added flavours, and other chemicals. The aerosol is considered to be a substitute for smoking cigarettes.

The report, published on the October 19 online issue of JAMA Network Open, stated that the study “showed that switching to e-cigarettes (even on a daily basis) was not associated with helping smokers remain abstinent from cigarettes.”

Dr. John P. Pierce, Distinguished Professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, said, “Our findings suggest that individuals who quit smoking and switched to e-cigarettes or other tobacco products actually increased their risk of a relapse back to smoking over the next year by 8.5 percentage points compared to those who quit using all tobacco products.”

E-cigarettes rose to popularity as medical experts earlier suggested them as a way to stay off cigarettes. However, Pierce suggested, “The evidence indicates that switching to e-cigarettes made it less likely, not more likely, to stay off of cigarettes.”

The data that the researchers used was taken from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) longitudinal study on tobacco use and its effect on people. The study was undertaken by the US-based National Institute on Drug Abuse and the US FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. The team took into account 13,604 smokers between 2013 and 2015. Observations were based on two sequential annual surveys that explored the changes in the use of 12 tobacco products.

At the first annual followup, 9.4 percent of smokers quit cigarettes. Among these “former smokers,” 62.9 percent of individuals left tobacco while 37.1 percent switched to another form of tobacco. In the latter category, 22.8 percent switched to e-cigarettes.

At the second annual followup, the authors compared the smokers who had left tobacco and those who had switched to e-cigarettes. They found that e-cigarette vapers were 8.5 percent more likely to relapse to cigarette smoking.

The e-cigarette vapers were, however, likely to try to quit smoking again and be off the cigarette for three months on average.

Researchers claimed that this was the first study of its kind.


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