Study: E-cigarettes did not help people quit smoking

I keep telling myself to leave this issue alone, since it seems to inspire people to come out of the Twitter woodwork to yell at me. But I can’t help myself. Here we go again. “A Longitudinal Analysis of Electronic Cigarette Use and Smoking Cessation“:

Although electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or electronic nicotine delivery systems) are aggressively promoted as smoking cessation aids, studies of their effectiveness for cessation have been unconvincing. One randomized trial comparing e-cigarettes with and without nicotine with a nicotine patch found no differences in 6-month quit rates. Population-based, longitudinal studies have also not shown associations between e-cigarette use and quitting. A longitudinal, international study found that, although 85% of smokers who used e-cigarettes reported using them to quit, e-cigarette users did not quit more frequently than nonusers (P = .52). Among US quitline callers, e-cigarette users were less likely to have quit at 7 months than nonusers. We conducted a longitudinal analysis of a national sample of current US smokers to determine whether e-cigarette use predicted successful quitting or reduced cigarette consumption.

Participants in this study were people from a web-enabled panel who completed two surveys in November of 2011 and November of 2012. All participants were current smokers at baseline. They collected all kinds of data on smoking habits, both at baseline and follow-up, as well as demographic data for use in analyses.

Overall, women, younger adults, and participants with less education were more likely to use e-cigs. E-cig users were also more likely to report smoking their first cigarette less than 30 minutes after waking in the morning. Baseline use of e-cigs was not associated with a greater intention to quit smoking.

And, e-cig users at baseline were not significantly more likely to have quit a year later.

The researchers constructed a second model which was more complex. It included intent to quit, how much people smoked, and dependence on smoking. That model found that intention to quit was significantly associated with quitting (OR 5.6). It found that cigarettes smoked per day was associated with the chance of quitting (OR 0.97). But it found that use of e-cigs did NOT predict quitting.

It also found that e-cig use was not associated with any reduction in cigarette consumption, after controlling for baseline consumption.

Yes, it’s not a perfect study. Yes, it’s not an RCT. Yes, the number of e-cig users could have been larger. But, basically, in this longitudinal study, e-cig use was not followed by either quitting or a reduction in cigarette consumption. There’s still not much evidence to support the claim that they are an aid to quitting cigarettes.

Let the screaming at me begin.


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