E-cig­a­rettes can help smok­ers quit tobacco

Users of de­vices were more likely to give up habit for at least three months

The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD - By Maria Cheng

Peo­ple who used e-cig­a­rettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn’t, a new study found.

Ni­co­tine patches, gums and med­i­ca­tions are known to aid smok­ing ces­sa­tion, but there’s no con­sen­sus on whether va­p­ing de­vices can help anti-smok­ing ef­forts. The U.S. re­search is the largest look yet at elec­tronic ci­garette users and it found e-cig­a­rettes played a role in help­ing peo­ple quit.

“It’s ab­so­lutely clear that e-cig­a­rettes help smok­ers re­place cig­a­rettes,” said Peter Ha­jek, di­rec­tor of the health and life­style re­search unit at Queen Mary Uni­ver­sity in Lon­don, who wasn’t part of the study.

Smok­ing rates have been gen­er­ally de­clin­ing for decades. Health ex­perts have cred­ited taxes on tobacco prod­ucts and anti-smok­ing ads for the drop.

E-cig­a­rettes have been sold in the U.S. since 2007. Most de­vices heat a liq­uid ni­co­tine so­lu­tion into va­por and were pro­moted to smok­ers as a less dan­ger­ous al­ter­na­tive be­cuase they don’t con­tain all the chem­i­cals, tar or odor of reg­u­lar cig­a­rettes.

Re­searchers an­a­lyzed and com­pared data col­lected by the U.S. Cen­sus from 2001 to 2015, in­clud­ing the num­ber of adult eci­garette users from the most re­cent sur­vey.

About two-thirds of e-ci­garette users tried to quit smok­ing, com­pared with 40 per­cent of non-users, the study found. Eci­garette users were more likely to suc­ceed in quit­ting for at least three months than non-users — 8 per­cent vs. 5 per­cent.

The re­search was pub­lished on­line Wed­nes­day in the jour­nal, BMJ. It was funded by the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health.

The rate of peo­ple quit­ting smok­ing in the U.S. has re­mained steady at about 4.5 per­cent for years. It jumped to 5.6 per­cent in 2014-15, rep­re­sent­ing about 350,000 fewer smok­ers. It was the first recorded rise in the smok­ing ces­sa­tion rate in 15 years.

While na­tional anti-smok­ing cam­paigns likely helped, the re­sults show e-ci­garette

use also played an im­por­tant role, said lead author Shu-Hong Zhu of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia-San Diego.

Ha­jek, who wasn’t part of the re­search, said va­p­ing de­vices shouldn’t be strictly reg­u­lated but should be al­lowed to com­pete di­rectly with cig­a­rettes. “That way, smok­ers can get what they want with­out killing them­selves,” he said.

This month, a House panel re­newed its ef­forts to pre­vent the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion from re­quir­ing retroac­tive safety re­views of e-cig­a­rettes al­ready on the mar­ket.

Oth­ers warned that the long-term side ef­fects of eci­garettes are un­known.

“We just don’t know if mov­ing to e-cig­a­rettes is good enough to re­duce the harm,” said Aruni Bhat­na­gar, di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion’s Tobacco Re­search and Ad­dic­tion Cen­ter. But Chris Bullen, who wrote an ac­com­pa­ny­ing editorial, said any ill ef­fects are “likely to be rare com­pared with the harms of con­tin­u­ing to smoke.”

The lat­est re­sults strongly sug­gest that more le­nient con­trol of e-cig­a­rettes could im­prove pop­u­la­tion health, said Bullen, a pro­fes­sor of pub­lic health at the Uni­ver­sity of Auck­land.

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