E-cigarette users no more likely to quit smoking than other smokers, study finds
Angela Mulholland, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, March 24, 2014 5:26PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 24, 2014 9:46PM EDT
E-cigarettes might be growing in popularity, especially among regular cigarette smokers. But a new study suggests that as a tool to help smokers quit, they may not be very effective.
The study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco was a small one, looking at 949 smokers, including 88 smokers who reported they also had used e-cigarettes in the last month.
Most of the smokers said they wanted to quit one day, either in the next six months or later. Those who used e-cigarettes were more likely to say they planned to quit, with only 5 per cent of e-cig users saying they didn't expect to ever quit, compared to 13 per cent of those who didn't use e-cigs.
But when researchers asked the participants one year later whether they had successfully kicked smoking, the quit rates between the smokers and the e-cigarette users were not that different. After one year, 10.2 per cent of the e-cig smokers – eight smokers -- said they had quit smoking, compared to 13.8 per cent of the regular cigarette smokers.
“You’ll hear lots of stories from people that say that e-cigarettes help them quit, but what we found was when we actually studied that systematically, we didn’t see a significant effect on cessation,” study co-author Dr. Pamela Ling told CTV News.
The study also found that women were more likely than men to use e-cigarettes. Younger adults under the age of 30, and people with less education were also more likely to use e-cigarettes.
The authors acknowledge that with only 88 e-cigarette users in the study, their study was small. But they say their data add to the debate and back up previous studies that e-cigarettes don't help smokers quit.
"I feel having some data is better than no data. And many of the claims about e-cigarettes are based on no data," said Ling.
The authors add that there should be regulations to ban e-cigarette makers from claiming or suggesting that e-cigarettes are effective smoking cessation devices.
Electronic cigarettes have become hugely popular in recent years, with surveys showing the number of people using the devices has skyrocketed in the last few years.
Many enthusiasts say they like "vaping" on e-cigarettes, because it allows them to mimic the act of smoking in places where smoking isn't allowed, and they enjoy inhaling the flavoured "juice" inside the devices and exhaling the vapour.
But public health officials have been less convinced about e-cigs, with many noting there have been few good studies on the safety of the devices, nor on whether they really help smokers to quit.
In Canada, it's illegal to sell e-cigarettes with flavour cartridges – or "juice" – that contains nicotine unless a manufacturer applies to Health Canada for authorization. The federal agency says it has not approved any e-cigarettes, but nevertheless, it's not hard to find e-cigarette retailers in Canada selling nicotine-laced "juice."
Melodie Tilson, the director of policy for the Non-Smokers' Rights Association worries that e-cigarettes are readily available everywhere, which could entice a new generation of smokers, particularly since it's not hard to get one's hands nicotine "juice."
She says her group believes that e-cigarettes are vastly less harmful than cigarettes and have "great potential" to help smokers quit because “there’s no combustion, there’s no tobacco. But at the same time, we don’t know that they’re absolutely safe to use.”
Tilson says she wants to see more studies conducted on the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes as smoking cessation aids.
“We want to base policy on much more rigorous studies…and other studies do show that e-cigarettes do help people quit, including one showing that e-cigarettes are at least as effective as nicotine patches,” she says.
With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip