E-Cigarettes Are Not an Effective Smoking Cessation Strategy

April 06, 2022 by Elisa Becze BA, ELS, Editor

Smokers who try to quit by switching to e-cigarettes do not have more success than those who use other smoking cessation strategies and in fact may be more likely to relapse, researchers found. They reported (https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2022/01/11/tobaccocontrol-2021-056901) their study results in Tobacco Control.

Using data from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study, the researchers compared smoking behaviors for 3,578 previous-year smokers who recently attempted to quit and 1,323 recent former smokers from 2017–2019. PATH measured participants’ use of e-cigarettes and other smoking cessation tools as well as their length of successful tobacco abstinence.

Fewer people reported using e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid in 2019 compared to 2017, and only 9.9% of those who did successfully maintained cessation for more than one year, a rate comparable to other cessation strategies (e.g., nicotine replacement therapy, pharmaceutical aids, no aids). The researchers also found that 4% of e-cigarette users had switched to a high-nicotine concentration in 2019, a rate nearly double that of 2017 (2.2%). Additionally, nearly 60% of daily e-cigarette users who had quit relapsed by 2019.

“This analysis did not show a cessation benefit from using e-cigarettes either to help a cessation attempt or as a substitute for cigarette smoking,” the researchers concluded (https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2022/01/11/tobaccocontrol-2021-056901). “However, there is evidence that cigarette smokers were starting to use high nicotine e-cigarettes by 2019 and further follow-up in PATH is needed to see whether these changes result in future cessation benefit.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool, and the devices’ health risks are similar to those of traditional cigarettes, including the implications of secondhand smoke on others. In its e-cigarettes and vaping position statement, ONS calls for more research and regulation of electronic nicotine delivery systems like e-cigarettes to better understand and prevent their contribution to the global cancer burden. Read the statement and find other resources in ONS’s E-Cigarettes and Vaping Learning Library (https://www.ons.org/learning-libraries/vaping).

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