E-cigarettes Don't Help Smokers Quit Tobacco: Study
Devices actually lower chances of quitting by 28 percent, researchers say
By Dennis Thompson
THURSDAY, Jan. 14, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Electronic cigarettes are promoted as a way to help smokers kick the habit, but a new study contends that the devices hamper rather than help.
E-cigarette use actually lowers smokers' chances that they'll quit tobacco by about 28 percent, according to an evidence review published online Jan. 14 in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal.
"We found that e-cigarette use was associated with significantly less quitting," said study senior author Stanton Glantz, a professor with the University of California, San Francisco's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. "E-cigarettes are being promoted as a means of quitting, but they're actually having the opposite effect."
Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat nicotine and flavorings to create a vapor that is inhaled by the user.
The e-cigarette industry and "vaping" advocates have argued that the devices are a healthier alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes, since users aren't inhaling carcinogenic smoke. They've also claimed that smokers could use e-cigs to wean themselves off tobacco.
These claims have been met with some opposition by the medical community. For example, in 2015 the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded there was insufficient evidence to recommend the devices to help adults quit smoking, the study authors pointed out in background notes.
To see whether the latest research on e-cigarettes supports industry claims, Glantz's team reviewed 38 studies assessing the association between e-cigarette use and cigarette cessation among adult smokers.
"We looked at every single paper out there we could find," he said. "We did not do any cherry-picking at all."
The study authors then combined the results of 20 studies that had control groups of smokers not using e-cigarettes, comparing them to smokers who also use e-cigarettes to see which group quit tobacco more often.
The researchers concluded that the odds of quitting smoking were 28 percent lower in smokers who used e-cigarettes compared to those who did not. The finding held up even after the researchers compensated for differences in study participants, the strength of smokers' nicotine dependence, the design of the studies and definitions of e-cigarette use, Glantz said.