Vaping Most Effective for Getting Smokers to Quit

Alicia Farmer
February 3, 2019

In fact, most e-cigarette companies endorse increasing the legal smoking age to 21, from 18 years old.

"Although a large number of smokers report that they have quit smoking successfully with the help of e-cigarettes, health professionals have been reluctant to recommend their use because of the lack of clear evidence from randomised controlled trials", said lead researcher Peter Hajek, from Queen Mary University of London.

But "low-risk" teens are almost nine times more likely to try smoking after they've vaped, according to findings published online February 1 in JAMA Network Open. He's an assistant professor of global health at Boston University's School of Public Health.

'This is now likely to change'. Juul's rapid popularity among teens in the USA -which has sparked fears that it could lead more young people to pick up tobacco smoking and reverse the success we've seen with lowering teen smoking rates - might explain the more reluctant attitude of doctors in the enthusiastically embrace e-cigarettes as a cessation aid. The finding that e-cigarettes are nearly twice as effective as NRTs is similar to the results of a survey that health psychologist Robert West and his colleagues conducted several years ago. That study, Hajek et al. note, "used cartridge e-cigarettes with low nicotine delivery and no face-to-face contact". But some studies (including one by Weaver) have shown no real benefit compared to other cessation options. And most importantly, at every point of the study, these users were more likely to have abstained completely from smoking cigarettes. "If anything, we may have underestimated the gravity of the problem relative to where we stand today". She further stressed that very few studies have actually explored the pros and cons of using e-cigs to assist with quitting.

It is the first study of its kind to assess the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in helping smokers quit.

"And then if that fails, consider short-term use of e-cigs to quit smoking".

And of those who did kick the habit, 80 per cent were left hooked on e-cigarettes instead, which raises concerns about the impact of long-term vaping.

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The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is the first trial to compare the efficacy of licensed quitting aids with e-cigarettes, which now do not have license for medical use.

Because the PATH study data was observational, the researchers admitted their analysis is unable to "establish causal relations or rule out the possibility of residual confounding by underlying risk-taking propensities".

Findings from the nationally representative study, published online in JAMA Network Open, add to the growing evidence linking e-cigarette use to an increased risk for initiating cigarette smoking among youth, especially among low-risk teens.

But kids not much interested in cigarettes were 8.5 times more likely to try smoking after they experimented with vaping, the investigators found. Ideally, you'd want people to wean themselves off the nicotine and the potentially harmful toxins provided by e-cigarettes.

The researchers didn't test e-cigarettes against new drugs such as Pfizer's Chantix, which has shown higher rates of success than older nicotine-based treatments. That was a reversal of a hands-off approach to e-cigarettes Gottlieb took in 2017 that was followed by a 75 percent rise between 2017 and 2018 in use of e-cigarettes by children and teens.

"If you have a method of helping people with smoking cessation that is both more effective and less costly, that should be of great interest to anyone providing health services, " said Kenneth Warner, a retired University of MI public health professor who was not involved in the study. And even though the study participants who attempted to quit by vaping were given the choice of just one product, the results were impressive. "Once they try it and they've broken that boundary, they might be more viable for future experimentation".

One group was handed a three-month supply of a standard cessation treatment of their choosing, such as nicotine gum, patches, or lozenges.

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