‘Hundreds of thousands’ give up smoking thanks to e-cigarettes

The increasing popularity of e-cigarettes among American adults is linked to the significant decrease in the number of people who smoke, according to new research published by the British Medical Journal.

The researchers, from the University of California, based their findings on five large US population surveys carried out between 2001 and 2015.

It was found that the rate of cessation increased by 5.6 per cent in 2015, up from 4.5 percent in 2011. This figure is higher than in any other year the survey was carried out. Although it is only a rise of 1.1 per cent, this represents around 350,000 American adults every year.

The results also showed that e-cigarette users were 25 per cent more likely to attempt to give up smoking.

Shu-Hong Zhu, the study’s lead author, said: ‘These findings need to be weighed carefully in regulatory policy making and in the planning of tobacco control interventions.’

‘Other interventions that occurred concurrently, such as a national campaign showing evocative ads that highlight the serious health consequences of tobacco use, most likely played a role in increasing the cessation rate. But this analysis presents a strong case that e-cigarette use also played an important role.’

Instant analysis

This is an interesting study and lends weight to the idea of remaining open minded about the regulation of e-cigarettes, however it carries with it the caveats often associated with observational studies, such as recall bias and the existence of other confounding factors.

The use of e-cigarettes in smokers in itself may carry with it a suggestion of increased motivation to quit, and large scale media campaigns and other factors may have also influenced the results. Nevertheless, it is worth taking note of the results, and it would be interesting to see a direct comparison against more conventional smoking cessation therapies, as well as more long term data.

Research score: 3/5

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  • chrissnowdon

    I doubt that recall bias played much of a part in this particular study (involving current and past 12 months usage) but for a direct comparison with nicotine replacement therapy, see this randomised controlled trial: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(13)61842-5/abstract

    E-cigarettes came out better. NB. These were with the old ‘cigalike’ e-cigarettes which most vapers find less effective than current tank systems.