Rutgers Study: E-Cigarette Use Is Soaring And Helping Smokers Quit

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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Ex-smokers are four times more likely to use e-cigarettes than current smokers, while those who’ve never taken a puff of tobacco are unlikely to ever start vaping.

A new paper by Rutgers School of Public Health and the Schroeder Institute slays a number of popular myths surrounding e-cigarettes. The paper uses some of the latest government data and suggests e-cigarettes could be a critical ingredient in getting people to give up smoking.

The research buries the claim that e-cigarettes are more likely to be used to complement regular cigarettes, rather than by former smokers trying to kick their habit. The study’s authors found that 13 percent of those who recently quit smoking were likely to use e-cigarettes daily compared to just 3.5 percent of current smokers.

“This is in line with other recent evidence that regular, daily e-cigarette use may help some smokers quit cigarettes,” said Cristine Delnevo, researcher at the School of Public Health and lead author of the study.

Published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, the study’s findings call into question the claims of some e-cigarettes’ most vehement critics. Health advocates often peddle the fear that e-cigarettes could be a “gateway” to regular tobacco and lure former smokers back to their old habits.

These fears are a far cry from reality, according to the research team. Citing data from 2014 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the researchers say “e-cigarettes have not been attracting adult non-smokers or promoting relapse in longer term former smokers. Moreover, the data are suggestive that some recent quitters may have done so with the assistance of e-cigarettes.”

They added that the amount of experimentation among adults who have never smoked with e-cigarettes is “extremely low.” The original NHIS shows that just 0.4 percent of people who had never smoked tobacco were current vapers, using the device either every day or some days.

“The findings suggest that e-cigarettes could be used to displace much more toxic cigarettes among smokers and generate an impressive public health benefit in terms of lives saved,” said David Abrams, Schroeder Institute’s executive director. Among the adults who had never smoked cigarettes, a meager 3.4 percent had ever tried an e-cigarette. In total, 12.6 percent of Americans have vaped.

Pro e-cigarette groups welcomed the report. “This study adds to the already large body of evidence showing that vapor products are effective at helping smokers quit,” Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association told the Daily Caller News Foundation. 

“With products like the nicotine gum and patch having pitiful twelve-month failure rates of 93-97 percent, it’s clear that anti-smoking groups should be welcoming the release of more innovative smoke-free products.”

But Conley was disappointed that the study failed to investigate what flavors vapers were using and how this helped them stay off regular cigarettes. There has been a host of demands, not least from Senate Democrats, to ban flavored e-cigarettes, on the grounds that they may appeal to children.

“With attacks on flavors coming daily from prohibitionists, it’s more important than ever that genuine public health researchers begin collecting data about their use among adult consumers,” said Conley.

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Guy Bentley