Cigarette smokers who use e-cigarettes are more likely to quit and succeed in the attempt, according to a recent US study.
Published this week in the British Medical Journal, the study titled ‘E-cigarette use and associated changes in population smoking cessation: evidence from US current population surveys’ examined more than 160,000 respondents of different smoking statuses (never smoked through to heavy smokers), including 2136 recent quitters, from five different population studies.
It showed that 49.3% of recent quitters had tried e-cigarettes, and that out of all smokers past and present, between 11.5% and 19% were current e-cigarette users.
The data, obtained in 2014-15, revealed a substantial increase in e-cigarette use compared to 2010-11, and demonstrated a “statistically significant increase in the smoking cessation rate”.
Lead study author Professor Shu-Hong Zhu said the research was based on the largest representative sample of e-cigarette users to date, and provided “a strong case” that e-cigarette use was associated with an increase in smoking cessation at the population level.
“It is remarkable, considering that this is the kind of data pattern that has been predicted but not observed at the population level for cessation medication, such as nicotine replacement therapy and varenicline,” the report stated.
“This is the first statistically significant increase observed in population smoking cessation among US adults in nearly a quarter of a century.
“These findings need to be weighed carefully in regulatory policy making and in the planning of tobacco control interventions.”
The study identified that the cessation rate for smokers who did not use e-cigarettes in 2014-15 was “statistically indistinguishable” from the rate in previous years.
“It was the e-cigarette users who quit at a clearly higher rate (8.2%) that brought the overall population cessation rate to a higher level,” Professor Zhu-Hong Zhu wrote.
“Such a data pattern makes it more reasonable to conclude that e-cigarette use contributes to the increase in the overall smoking cessation rate.”
It was suggested that e-cigarette use could be an indicator of motivation to quit smoking, which would predict a higher quit rate in a given population.
Australian bans on e-cigarettes and nicotine e-liquid
A parliamentary inquiry aimed at reducing red-tape is expected later this year to deliver a report which will deal with the issue of electronic cigarettes and the sale of nicotine liquids.
Earlier this year the Therapeutic Goods Administration rejected an application to exempt nicotine from the dangerous poisons list, which was followed by a Federal Government announcement of a parliamentary inquiry into the ban on nicotine and nicotine-containing devices.
The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) has repeatedly called for bans to be lifted, which would allow C-store operators to stock nicotine liquids and profit from what has been predicted to become a global market worth more than $10 billion by 2018.
AACS CEO Jeff Rogut has argued that while the ban remains in place, e-cigarette users must source their nicotine online without quality assurance.
“The available evidence clearly shows that e-cigarettes are significantly safer than traditional tobacco products and that they have helped millions of people around the world cut down and quit smoking. Denying Australian smokers this alternative is reckless in the extreme,” Mr Rogut said.
“It makes no sense to provide smokers less alternatives to help them cut down and quit. If we are serious about reducing the incidence of smoking we should be providing smokers more options.”
Research conducted by AACS showed that more than 50% of Australians supported the lifting of bans on nicotine products for e-cigarettes, and that 68% of smokers would try them if they were readily available and cheaper than cigarettes.