Vaping Helps Smokers Quit, Study Shows for the Nth Time

By Cameron English — Dec 22, 2021
Yet another high-quality study has shown that vaping can help smokers permanently give up cigarettes. The media seems not to have noticed. Why?
Image by mohamed_hassan via Pixabay

If you're a smoker trying to ditch your deadly habit, yet another high-quality, double-blind clinical study has shown that vaping may be your best bet. Writing in Nicotine and Tobacco Research last month, the authors summed up their results this way:

When smokers seeking to reduce smoking tried ENDS [electronic nicotine delivery systems], few quit smoking in the short term. However, if smokers continued to use an ENDS with cigarette-like nicotine delivery, a greater proportion completely switched to ENDS, as compared with placebo or a cigarette substitute.

To briefly recap the results, a total of 520 adults smokers with no desire to quit were randomized to one of four groups for six months. Participants utilized an eGo-style vape containing 0, 8, or 36 mg strength nicotine liquid or a cigarette-shaped tube as a cigarette substitute (CS). The participants self-reported daily cigarette consumption, and the researchers measured exhaled carbon monoxide (CO) at periodic visits throughout the study.

By the end of the experiment 14 of 130 smokers in the 36 mg nicotine group (10.8%) were cigarette abstinent compared to six out of 130 in the 8 mg group (4.6%); one out of 130 (0.8%) in the 0 mg group and four out of 130 (3.1%) in the CS group were abstinent by the 24-week mark.

Encouraging results

A few observations are in order:

While quit rates were relatively low, nobody in the study was actually trying to give up tobacco. Nonetheless, “we noticed that the number of those receiving the high nicotine-delivery ENDS who abstained from cigarettes gradually increased,” lead author Jonathan Foulds, professor of public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine, explained. This group also went longer without smoking cigarettes than anyone else in the study.

There were no serious vaping-related adverse events reported during the six months, undermining previous claims that the so-called dual use of cigarettes and vapes poses a unique health risk. It also suggests that anti-vaping groups like the Truth Initiative are barking up the wrong tree by hyping the dangers of nicotine in electronic cigarettes.

Finally, the researchers monitored which ENDS device and nicotine liquid the participants used. That may seem like an insignificant detail, but it allowed the study authors to establish a clear dose-response relationship between vaping and smoking cessation. Most of the recent studies we've looked at had no way to measure how often an individual vaped or how much nicotine they consumed, meaning their results offer little insight into the health effects of electronic cigarette use.

Slanted media coverage

That leads us to an important concluding observation. The handful of studies since September that have linked vaping to harmful outcomes like elevated stroke risk, bone damage, and depression all received widespread, favorable media coverage. In contrast, higher quality research (present study included) that identifies the reduced risk of vaping often goes unnoticed by the media.

When these studies do receive coverage, reporters tend to distort the findings, as happened with a recent paper showing that vapers experience far less mitochondrial damage than do smokers. Our own Dr. Chuck Dinerstein was one of the few writers who correctly reported the results of that study. It seems to me that the only possible explanations for this disparity are media bias or a desire to draw eyeballs to explosive but scientifically dubious news articles. Neither explanation speaks well of reporters.

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