More results are coming in to support the usefulness of e-cigarettes as quit-smoking aids, as new research from the University of California has concluded that e-cigarettes or vaping devices used in the United States between 2010 and 2014 was associated with a change in overall smoking cessation rates in the country.
The findings could help usher in a change in direction for health care policy, which has been up until now reluctant to support the use of e-cigarettes in quit-smoking programs.
Data for the study, published in the British Journal of Medicine, was collected from the comprehensive US Current Population Survey, the tobacco use portion of which surveyed 161,054 respondents in 2014-15, 22,548 of whom were current smokers and 2,136 were recent quitters. The survey found that e-cigarette users were more likely than non-users to attempt to quit smoking, by a rate of 65.1 per cent to 40.1 per cent, and that they were more likely to succeed in quitting, at a rate of 8.2 per cent compared to 4.8 per cent.
Moreover, the study found that the overall smoking cessation rate for 2014-15 was about one percentage point higher for 2014-15 in comparison to previous years when e-cigarette use was much less common in American populations.
The researchers say the results show the need for updating smoking cessation policies to include e-cigarettes. “The substantial increase in e-cigarette use among US adult smokers was associated with a statistically significant increase in the smoking cessation rate at the population level,” say the study’s authors. “These findings need to be weighed carefully in regulatory policy making regarding e-cigarettes and in planning tobacco control interventions.”
Many countries are still grappling with the recent uptake of e-cigarettes and vaping devices, which have quickly become commonplace in places like Canada and the US, even as the long-term health consequences of the devices are still unknown.
That uncertainty, coupled with a concern over e-cigarettes operating as a possible “gateway drug” leading young people to take up smoking, has led to a hesitancy by health agencies to adopt vaping products as a usable substitute for tobacco.
In Canada, while often marketed as quit-smoking aids, e-cigarettes are not approved or regulated by the federal government for that purpose. But Health Canada’s position is being challenged by health care practitioners who see e-cigarettes as a useful tool in combatting smoking.
Earlier this year, the Centre for Addiction Research of BC at the University of Victoria produced a review of research into the harms and benefits of e-cigarettes, finding “no evidence of any gateway effect” for youth and instead noting that youth tobacco use over the last few years has been in steady decline at the same time that vaping use has been on the rise.
“The public has been misled about the risks of e-cigarettes,” says Tim Stockwell, director of the Centre for Addiction Research of B.C., to the Globe and Mail. “Many people think they are as dangerous as smoking tobacco, but the evidence shows this is completely false.”
The report also concluded that vaping devices contain “substantially fewer” toxicants than does smoke from tobacco cigarettes and that second-hand exposure to vapour is much less harmful than exposure to tobacco smoke.