If va­p­ing helps kick habit, it has merit

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

This ap­peared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The rate at which peo­ple quit smok­ing has gone up a notch, a re­cent study shows, and e-cig­a­rettes may have some­thing to do with it.

The study, pub­lished in the Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal, an­a­lyzed data from five U.S. Cen­sus to­bacco-use sur­veys, the first of which was from 2001 to 2002 and the last from 2014 to 2015. Only the last, which fol­lowed a sub­stan­tial in­crease in e-cig­a­rette use, showed a sig­nif­i­cantly higher rate than the oth­ers of peo­ple quit­ting smok­ing. And the in­crease came en­tirely from peo­ple who had tried e-cig­a­rettes.

It was an in­crease of a lit­tle more than a per­cent­age point, to 5.6 per cent of peo­ple who said they had smoked in the year pre­ced­ing the sur­vey. But ex­trap­o­lated to the pop­u­la­tion of smok­ers, that’s 350,000 peo­ple. And e-cig­a­rette users ac­counted for the whole in­crease.

There are caveats. Us­ing e-cig­a­rettes may not have been the cause of the quit­ting, but an ef­fect of mo­ti­va­tion to quit. Also, some peo­ple who start us­ing e-cig­a­rettes keep us­ing them, and that may have health ef­fects. The Amer­i­can Lung As­so­ci­a­tion said the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion had found other meth­ods, but not yet e-cig­a­rettes, to be safe and ef­fec­tive for quit­ting smok­ing.

To the con­trary, the agency un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is­sued retroac­tive reg­u­la­tions on e-cig­a­rettes that small e-cig­a­rette com­pa­nies said could kill them if they took full ef­fect. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s FDA has ex­tended dead­lines un­der those reg­u­la­tions. It might be wise to re­con­sider them al­to­gether.

The new study is at least some ev­i­dence that e-cig­a­rettes de­serve some credit for help­ing peo­ple move away from smok­ing. And any uptick in quit­ting is grounds for cel­e­bra­tion.

That doesn’t mean non­smok­ers should take up va­p­ing, es­pe­cially young peo­ple. But if e-cig­a­rettes are help­ing adults quit a to­bacco habit, that de­serves con­sid­er­a­tion in dis­cus­sions of va­p­ing’s fu­ture.

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