If vaping helps kick habit, it has merit
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.