The use of e-cigarettes or vaping devices has exploded in the past 5 years with new and smaller devices continuously being developed. These devices are marketed as safer alternatives to conventional cigarettes that can help a user quit their cigarette habit. There is an accumulating body of evidence that suggests e-cigarettes are not harmless and there is uncertainty about their ability to help users quit smoking. Indeed, a recent study from a research team in Ohio calls into question the use of e-cigarettes as a quitting aide for smokers.
The study analyzed data on participants from the Tobacco User Adult Cohort and categorized them into cigarette only users (617 participants) or dual users (88 participants) who use both traditional cigarettes daily and e-cigarettes daily (or some days per week). The participants were interviewed every 6 months for 18 months and data on quitting attempts, cessation interest, and successful cessation from cigarettes and all tobacco products were collected. The team found there to be no difference between the two groups in the number of people who successfully quit using cigarettes or in the number of attempts to quit smoking. Interestingly, e-cigarette users were more likely to abstain from cigarettes at the 6-month visit but this difference disappeared at the later time points suggesting an inability to maintain the quitting behaviour. Finally, there was no difference between the two groups in the ability to abstain from all tobacco products (cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, etc).
These results suggest that, contrary to popular belief, e-cigarettes do not help a person to quit smoking any more than quitting cold turkey would. Put simply, e-cigarettes are an ineffective quit smoking aide. While there appeared to be some effect at the early time points in the study (6 months post intake), these results didn’t hold and suggest that people who use e-cigarettes are just as likely to start smoking again as users who don’t use the devices. Partnered with the data on the negative health benefits of e-cigarettes, there is no data to suggest that e-cigarettes are a useful harm reduction tool for people who smoke. Big tobacco companies own large parts of the vaping and e-cigarette market and are just moving their users from one dangerous product to another. Vaping is not an alternative to traditional tobacco, it is traditional tobacco in a new disguise.