Study Suggests E-Cigs' Potential as Cessation Devices

Electronic cigarette smokers report decreased consumption, health improvements

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

LONDON -- Although most electronic cigarettes aren't being marketed as smoking cessation devices, an online study hosted by the University of East London and published in the journal Addiction suggests they have great potential to help current smokers quit or greatly reduce their tobacco consumption. Titled "'Vaping' Profiles and Preferences," the article reports that of the 1,347 committed e-cigarette users surveyed, about 75% found that e-cigs helped them quit smoking.

"Survey respondents were predominantly ex-smokers who wanted a complete alternative to smoking," wrote the article's lead author, Lynne Dawkins. "The majority of respondents reported that e-cigarette use (vaping) had dramatically reduced their craving for cigarettes and helped them to stop or substantially reduce their tobacco consumption. ... E-cigarettes were generally considered to be satisfying to use, associated with very few side effects, healthier than smoking, and responsible for improved cough and breathing."

In total, 74% of participants reported not smoking for at least a few weeks since using the e-cigarette, 70% reported reduced urge to smoke and an additional 14% reported that their cigarette consumption had decreased dramatically--making a total of 88% of survey respondents having quit or significantly reduced their cigarette consumption.

Perhaps equally important, the study showed that the majority of participants experienced improved health after switching to e-cigarettes: 70% reported a substantial reduction in coughing, and 72% reported significant improvements in their breathing. Of the adverse health effects documented in the survey, the most common were mouth and throat irritation.

"The most important finding of the study is that electronic cigarettes are being used as a complete or partial alternative to cigarette smoking and that there is little evidence for dual use," wrote Boston University School of Public Health professor Michael Siegel in his Tobacco Analysis blog. "This destroys the main argument of the anti-smoking groups--like the American Legacy Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights--which continue to oppose electronic cigarettes."

With an admittedly small sample size, the article recommends further research to document the true potential as e-cigarettes as smoking cessation devices--but it sent a clear message to both politicians and health-care professionals looking to deter smokers from e-cigarettes.

"Although absolute safety and product quality should be more thoroughly evaluated, the implications of these findings for policy-makers, regulators and health-care providers are clear: prohibiting or discouraging the use of e-cigarettes could be detrimental to public health if smokers are deprived of a highly endorsed and well-tolerated method of smoking cessation."