Smokers who use e-cigarettes to quit are less likely to be successful compared to those who try other approaches, according to a new study. Photo by sarahjohnson1/Pixabay
Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Smokers who use e-cigarettes as a strategy to quit the habit tend to be less successful than those who try other methods, such as nicotine replacement therapy or prescription drugs, a study published Monday by the journal Tobacco Control found.
Ten percent of smokers who attempted to quit with e-cigarettes were successful, compared with 15% of those who used nicotine replacement therapy and up to 19% among those treated with prescription smoking cessation drugs, the data showed.
About 13% of smokers in the study reported using e-cigarettes as part of an attempt to quit in 2017, a 25% drop from the previous year, the researchers said.
"Not many smokers are using e-cigarettes to help them quit," study co-author John P. Pierce told UPI in an email.
"In this study, e-cigarettes were much less helpful than pharmaceutical cessation aids in helping people quit," said Pierce, an emeritus professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego.
Although some studies have indicated that e-cigarettes, or vaping devices, can assist in smoking cessation, others have not.
Still, these devices have been sold in the United States since 2007 and became a popular smoking cessation aid within the next decade, with sales nearly doubling during that period, research indicates.
High-nicotine e-cigarette products, such as JUUL, which contain more of the potentially addictive stimulant found in tobacco, drove much of this sales increase, studies have found.
In addition, smoking traditional cigarettes and vaping combined damages the lungs and heart more than smoking alone, studies indicate.
In light of these trends, Pierce and his colleagues assessed the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid in the United States between 2017 and 2019, when high-nicotine products were at their peak of popularity.
Based on roughly 3,900 responses to the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study, a national survey of tobacco consumption and its health effects led by the National Institutes of Health, about 13% used e-cigarettes to quit smoking, the data showed.
About 21% used nicotine replacement therapy, which is designed to offset withdrawal symptoms after stopping tobacco use by delivering small amounts through patches placed on the skin or special gums, lozenges, nasal sprays or inhalers, according to the American Cancer Society.
Just over 64% of the participants, who included long-term smokers who had made a recent attempt to quit and 1,323 recent former smokers, attempted to quit without any products to assist them, the researchers said.
The remaining 2% or so used prescription smoking cessation drugs such as Chantix, varenicline, Wellbutrin, Zyban or bupropion, according to the researchers.
Among recent former smokers, just over 15% had switched to e-cigarettes and 16% said they had used another tobacco product, with the rest saying they had attempted to quit without assistance, the data showed.
Of those who had switched to e-cigarettes, just over 24% reported using high-nicotine e-cigarettes, the researchers said.
By 2019, the proportion of recent former smokers who had switched to e-cigarettes rose to 22%, by which point some were using high nicotine content e-cigarettes, according to the researchers.
E-cigarette use was associated with seven fewer successful quit attempts per 100 than other aids, they said.
In addition, nearly 60% of recent former smokers who were daily e-cigarette users had resumed smoking traditional cigarettes by 2019, the data showed.
"We are not finding any evidence in this very large nationally representative study that smokers who switch to get their nicotine from e-cigarettes are less likely to relapse back to cigarette smoking," Pierce said.