E-cigarettes don’t help smokers quit, suggests new research



Use of e-cigarettes was not more effective than other methods at helping cigarette smokers quit, authors of new research found.

From 2013 to 2017, e-cigarette sales in the United States nearly doubled, driven by a rapid uptake of use by adolescents, wrote Riufeng Chen, MD, of the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues, in their paper published in Tobacco Control. However, the subsequent effect of increased e-cigarette use on smoking cessation have not been examined, they said.

In their study, Dr. Chen and colleagues analyzed data from 3,578 previous-year smokers with a recent quit attempt and 1,323 recent former smokers who were part of the PATH cohort in 2017. The participants reported using e-cigarettes or other products to quit cigarette smoking. The primary outcomes were at least 12 months of cigarette abstinence, and tobacco abstinence in 2019. In 2017, 32.8% of established smokers reported trying to quit. Of these, 12.6% used e-cigarettes to help them quit. Cigarette abstinence for at least 12 months for these individuals was 9.9%, which was lower than for those who used either nicotine replacement therapy or a pharmaceutical aid only (15.2%), and about half of the 18.6% abstinence in those who used no products to help them quit.

“In our study, e-cigarettes resulted in seven fewer successful quitters than those who used pharmaceutical aids,” emphasized corresponding author, John P. Pierce, PhD, of the University of California, San Diego.

Among smokers attempting to quit, the adjusted risk difference for cigarette abstinence for a least 12 months with e-cigarettes vs. pharmaceutical aids was –7.3%, and –7.7% for e-cigarettes vs. other smoking cessation methods.

*“Among recent former smokers who had switched to daily use of e-cigarettes in 2017, 43.2% had successfully quit cigarette smoking by 2019, which was similar to those who used e-cigarettes on a nondaily basis (34.6%) or to those who switched to another tobacco product, whether daily (43.6%) or nondaily (44.7%),” the researchers wrote.

The rapid growth in e-cigarette use between 2014 and 2017 has been attributed in part to aggressive marketing of high-nicotine e-cigarettes, they said. “The high-nicotine JUUL e-cigarette has been noted as the closest match to cigarettes in both nicotine delivery and user satisfaction, which should make it one of the best candidates as a product to which smokers could switch in order to maintain their nicotine habit,” they said in their discussion of the findings.

More research needed

The researchers acknowledged the need to review more recent data.

“When we looked ahead to 2019, recent former smokers had started using high-nicotine e-cigarettes. The effectiveness of high-nicotine e-cigarettes at preventing relapse will require another follow-up PATH survey,” they said.

Among recent former smokers, 2.2% reported switching to a high-nicotine e-cigarette. Although individuals who switched to e-cigarettes showed a higher rate of relapse to cigarettes than those who did not switch to other tobacco or e-cigarette products, this difference was not significant.

The study findings were limited by several factors including the observational design and inability to control for all potential confounding factors, the researchers noted. However, the results were strengthened by the use of a large and representative study population, and the inclusion of biological samples to validate self-reported smoking, they said.


Next Article: