New Study Provides Strong Evidence That E-Cigarettes Boost Smoking Cessation

Quit rates rose with e-cigarette sales, and vapers are more likely to stop smoking.



A new study, based on data from a large survey of current and former smokers in the United States, provides some of the strongest evidence yet that electronic cigarettes are helping Americans move from the first group to the second. The study, reported this month in the BMJ, finds that quit attempt and smoking cessation rates both increased significantly during the period when e-cigarette sales took off. Furthermore, these changes were entirely attributable to increased quitting among e-cigarette users, who were more likely to try and more likely to succeed than smokers who did not vape.

The researchers, led by University of California at San Diego public health professor Shu-Hong Zhu, found that 45.9 percent of smokers reported quit attempts in the 2014-15 Current Population Survey, up from 41.4 percent in 2010-11. The percentage who stopped smoking for at least three months also rose, from 4.5 percent to 5.6 percent. "This is the first time in almost a quarter of a century that the smoking cessation rate in the US has increased at the population level," Zhu and his colleagues write. "The 1.1 percentage point increase in cessation rate…might appear small, but it represents approximately 350?000 additional US smokers who quit in 2014-15."

What happened during this period that might account for the change? Zhu et al. note that e-cigarette use in the U.S. "became noticeable around 2010 and increased dramatically by 2014."

That correlation is reinforced by the researchers' subgroup analysis of the 2014-15 data, which found that 65 percent of smokers who had used e-cigarettes in the previous year had tried quitting, compared to 40 percent of the other smokers. "Numerically speaking," the authors say, "it was this e-cigarette user subgroup that raised the overall quit attempt rate for 2014-15, and thus the rate was statistically significantly higher than in all previous survey years."

Vapers also had a higher cessation rate than nonvapers in 2014-15: 8.2 percent vs. 4.8 percent. "Again," Zhu et al. write, "the 2014-15 survey had a noticeably higher overall cessation rate because the e-cigarette user subgroup had a higher cessation rate than those who did not report e-cigarette use in the past year."

Since this is an observational study rather than a randomized, controlled experiment, alternative explanations are possible. But the researchers persuasively argue that neither the 2009 increase in the federal tobacco tax nor the TIPS From Former Smokers ad campaign that began in 2012 can adequately explain the increase in smoking cessation, especially in light of the stark subgroup differences. The impact of the tax hike was relatively small and short-lived, Zhu et al. say, while it is hard to see why the anti-smoking ads would have had an impact only on smokers "who happened to use e-cigarettes in 2014-15."

Still, smokers who try vaping may differ from those who do not in ways that make them more likely to quit. "Given that the e-cigarette user subgroup was the only group that had statistically significantly higher rates in 2014-15," Zhu et al. say, "it is tempting to attribute the increase in the overall smoking cessation rate in 2014-15 solely to e-cigarette use. However, e-cigarette use itself could be an indicator of motivation to quit smoking, which would predict a higher quit rate. Thus, attributing the full 73% relative difference to e-cigarettes is likely an overestimate of their effect."

These results nevertheless should allay fears that e-cigarettes might somehow make smoking more common than it would otherwise be. To the contrary, the vaping alternative seems to be accelerating the downward trend in the smoking rate, which in this survey fell from 21 percent in 2001-02 to less than 14 percent in 2014-15. Any regulatory policy that makes e-cigarettes less accessible or less appealing to smokers, such as the onerous rules unveiled by the Food and Drug Administration last year, is apt to have the opposite effect, with potentially deadly consequences.

"We found that e-cigarette use was associated with an increased smoking cessation rate at the level of subgroup analysis and at the overall population level," Zhu et al. conclude. "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….These findings need to be weighed carefully in regulatory policy making and in the planning of tobacco control interventions."

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  1. I used tobacco products from the ages of 14-35 years. I drank the equivalent of four to five 20-ounce Dr Peppers every day for pretty much my whole life before then.

    I stopped all of it cold turkey with the help of a vape, and within a year was off that, as well. Today, I have Dr Pepper if I’m having a drink on the weekends, and that’s it. 3 years without any tobacco of any kind, or even cravings, and an almost total move to water.

    The shit DOES work.

    1. Awesome handle. Worthy of Ambrose Bierce.

  2. I couldn’t do vaping for tobacco, but did you know they do it for weed now? I could theoretically sit at my office and be stoned all day and nobody would smell anything. The 21st century is not all bad.

    1. This explains a lot.

  3. It worked for me. I quit after 35 yrs of cigarettes. People who are banning/restricting a these things are self-centered assholes. I have a machine for them to see.

  4. The US Constitution affirms the fact the most of the federal government is illegal.

  5. There is no tobacco. There may or may not be nicotine in the fluid. There is no rational basis for the government to be involved at any level.
    Yet the hue and cry continues unabated, and regardless of fact.
    It looks like smoking, and people seem to enjoy it, therefore it must be banned. Since there is no legal basis for the ban, let’s just call it a tobacco product and be done with it.

    This country is doomed.

    1. ^This. You just beat me to it.

  6. “Alright, team, think! THINK! We NEED to find something to replace pot as our go-to budget justifier to the soccer moms! There must be SOMETHING!”

    “Salvia?” “No.” “Kratom?” “Already did.” “World of Warcraft?” “I don’t think the ‘ignored girlfriend’ demographic has the votes we’d need, but points for thinking outside the box, Gary.”


    “…Congratulations, Deborah. You just bought yourself a ticket to Raise City.”

  7. One of our local pecksniffs begged the City Council to ban vaping in all city venues because no one, including police, can tell the difference between someone smoking and someone vaping.

    This is the same guy who claims if someone lights up a cigarette on the other side of the football field he hacks and coughs from secondhand smoke.

    Unfortunately, City Council bought it.

    1. Most of the anti-smoking/vaping bans started in cities and towns because its easier for the special interest groups to push them there, especially in wealthy towns where it doesn’t suit their image and there are few real problems.

  8. It will be interesting to see what the vaper haters and their cocksucking politician friends make of this study. Something tells me they will not agree with the “science” that does not justify their agenda. I could tell them how vaping has kept me away from cigarettes for 4 years now and they will probably send me a tax bill for all the ciggies I haven’t smoked.

  9. I’ve tried lots of other methods to quit smoking. Vaping is the only one that actually helped me quit.

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