Study Finds E-Cigarette Users Are More Likely to Stop Smoking Than People Who Use Other Methods to Quit


Blu e-cigarette ad

According to a study reported today in the journal Addiction, people who try to quit smoking with the aid of electronic cigarettes are twice as likely to succeed as people who use nicotine replacement products such as gum or patches. The researchers, led by University College London health psychologist Robert West (who is editor in chief of Addiction), surveyed a representative sample of the British population, focusing on 5,863 subjects who had tried to quit in the previous year unaided, with e-cigarettes, or with over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). At the time of the survey, 20 percent of the e-cigarette users were no longer smoking, compared to 10.1 percent of NRT users and 15.4 percent of those who tried to quit without any sort of nicotine replacement. Adjusting for various possible confounding variables, including age, sex, socioeconomic status, and strength of nicotine dependence, West et al. found that e-cigarette users were about 60 percent more likely to succeed than either of the other two groups.

The quit rate among e-cigarette users in this study is one-quarter the rate found in a recent survey of 19,000 e-cigarette users. But the sample for the latter study was drawn mainly from participants in online e-cigarette forums, who are especially enthusiastic about the product and therefore more likely to have successfully switched from smoking to vaping. Since West et al. used a random sample of smokers who had tried to quit, their results are more representative.

West et al.'s results indicate that e-cigarettes have a bigger edge over NRTs than suggested by a randomized trial reported in The Lancet last year. In that study, the six-month quit rate for e-cigarette users was 7.3 percent, compared to 5.8 percent for patch users. The difference between the quit rates in the two studies might be due to confounding variables that West et al. did not take into account. Then again, if e-cigarettes are especially effective for people with certain traits, a randomized trial would obscure that fact. West argues that clinical trials are not appropriate for measuring the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid because subjects who do not like the treatment to which they are assigned tend to drop out. He also suggests that the e-cigarette market, which is currently shifting from cigarette-like products with disposable cartridges toward vaping devices with refillable tanks, is changing so rapidly that experimental results may be obsolete by the time they are published.

Whether or not you agree with West, it is plainly absurd to continue claiming, as CDC officials do, that the harm-reducing benefits of e-cigarettes are merely "hypothetical." Based on the evidence collected so far, e-cigarettes are at least as effective as the NRTs favored by the CDC, and probably more effective. "E-cigarettes could substantially improve public health because of their widespread appeal and the huge health gains associated with stopping smoking," West says, "It is not clear whether long-term use of e-cigarettes carries health risks, but from what is known about the contents of the vapor, these will be much less than from smoking." While "some public health experts have expressed concern that widespread use of e-cigarettes could 're-normalize' smoking," he adds, "we are tracking this very closely and see no evidence of it. Smoking rates in England are declining, quitting rates are increasing and regular e-cigarette use among never smokers is negligible."

Addendum: As Michael Siegel notes, Carl Phillips has some useful observations about how to interpret West et al.'s results and whether randomized clinical trials are a better approach:

Self-selection is not a problem, but rather part of what matters in the real world. There is no possibility that every smoker in a population will be assigned one method to quit. Thus, there is no reason to try to figure out which would be the best single method to assign to everyone (which is basically what a well-done clinical study would show). Rather, in the real world, each of the cessation methods is available to everyone, and (since it does not matter which one someone uses, from the perspective of health) it is best if they can find which one works best for them (which refers to both effective smoking cessation and ongoing happiness). 

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  1. Right.

    But people ENJOY vaping.

    It doesn’t count as progress if you enjoy it.

    To be satisfactory to our public health overlords, you must NOT enjoy whatever it is you’re doing.

    Have we learned nothing from chocolate milk in school lunches?

    1. The problem is that these anti-smoking things are ostensibly about improving public health, but more accurately about an additional revenue stream.

  2. Honest statist: “Whoa, whoa, whoa. We can’t have people successfully quitting smoking. Our revenue model depends on sin taxes from cigarettes and occasionally strong arming tobacco companies into coughing up a couple dozen billion dollars.”

    1. The multi-state settlment the tobacco companies engineered was brilliant. Fifty state budgets that require your company stay viable to continue paying the settlement. Politicians NEED those companies to stay in business.

  3. Study Finds E-Cigarette Users Are More Likely to Stop Smoking Than People Who Use Other Methods to Quit

    This is why it must be banned. The states depend on cigarette taxes.

    1. Or what Brett L said.

      I’m just going to reboot this morning.

    2. Eh, I’ve been waiting for various things to install on different VMs. Even for me, this has been a low effort day at work. At this point, I’m just hitting the refresh/comment button like the mythical crack-addicted rat.

      1. We’re currently re-iping the enterprise, so I’m sitting around waiting for PC techs to call me so I can VLan off switch ports.

        Now some beatch got burned because she took off with a set of our data closet keys for days so the “solution” was to turn the Network Administrator into a Key Runner. I just told my Boss, “Not a good idea– that is if you want to go live in July”

        So I’m no low-productivity, high availability mode right now.

        1. I’m writing documentation for SQL scripts. I haz a sad.

          1. I’m staring at a blank screen waiting for an idea to appear from nowhere.


    Vaping is icky and therefore violates our taboos.

    1. violates our taboos.


      1. Daddy, you’re crushin’ my smokes.

      2. Having a cigarette shaped totem. They’re supernaturally evil.

  5. This is what happens with those foreign fuckers don’t coordinate with savior’s officers here in the US. It’ll take us weeks to back this mess out.

  6. So you’re telling me there goes a another deterrent to starting smoking? Kids of today truly do have it harder than any other generation.

  7. Vaping helps people quit because they finally realize how stupid they look. Vaping has to be the dumbest fad since whacky wall walkers.

    1. Sucking on a glass dick every seven seconds? What’s wrong with that look?

  8. Stephen Dorff gave up cigarettes, but he hasn’t given up smokin’…..amirite, jesse?

  9. “surveyed a representative sample of the British population, focusing on 5,863 subjects…”

    First time I read this I thought, “I’m glad they’ve stopped calling them citizens and started calling them subjects again. They are disarmed, after all.”

    Then I realized that wasn’t what the author meant. Still quite appropriate.

  10. Watch out?results like this could cause FDA & other nations’ authorities to turn e-cigs into prescription-only medical devices.

  11. I switched from smoking a pack a day to vaping four months ago. I feel better, I stopped having to go outside to smoke and my clothes and car don’t stink like an ashtray.

    Anyone arguing against vaping is a fucking idiot. It works.

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