Study: The more you vape, the less you smoke

Vapers already know what’s obvious. Our illustrious devices have helped hundreds of thousands of people kick the habit America despises: Smoking.

And yet, academics still surface regularly in peer-reviewed medical journals to tell us that this might not be in true. In fact, they say, vaping is turning even more people into nicotine addicts by sanitizing its use.

Now yet another study has emerged drawing conclusions based on government data from large health surveys. While it stops short of concluding that vaping leads to smoking cessation, it does offer possibly the strongest evidence yet that the more you vape, the less you smoke.

The research appears in the August issue of the journal Addictive Behaviors.

The authors, who did not list any conflicts of interest, received funding for their research from the National Institutes of Health, a U.S. government agency.

They found that among adults who smoked during the past five years, daily vapers had the highest rates of currently “being quit,” to use the researchers’ term. Over half of them had snuffed out the nasty cancer sticks for good.

In fact, daily vapers were three times more likely to “be quit” than never vapers.

The research hints at how evolving vaping technology may actually assist those looking to quit smoking.

“The low prevalence of cessation among infrequent (vapers) highlights the need to better understand this subgroup, including the individual factors and/or product characteristics that may inhibit cessation.”

Strongest evidence yet of vaping as cessation

The authors of the study, like so many before them, stopped short of coming right out and saying the research shows people can quit smoking by vaping.

But they may as well have.

“Although the cross-sectional nature of the survey prohibits assertions about the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation, we hypothesize several plausible pathways that may explain this finding,” reported authors Daniel P. Giovenco and Christine Delnevo.

“First, some recent smokers may have quit by intensively using (vaping devices), which is consistent with evidence from prospective studies demonstrating that frequent or sustained (vaping) may contribute to smoking cessation,” they continued. “Alternatively, some smokers have quit with or without the help of (vaping devices) and began using the devices regularly to control cravings and prevent smoking relapse.”

Giovenco is a researcher at Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, New York. Delveno is a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Exception to the rule: Day vapers still puffing cigs

An exception to the authors’ findings regarding daily vapers giving up cigarettes was a subset of those who vape during the day. They were among the least likely to give up smoking cigarettes.

Still, the authors offered a measured hypothesis as to why. “Possibly, current smokers who are (vaping) on some days are dually using the products in an attempt to cut back on and eventually eliminate cigarette use. That is, they may have been interviewed in the middle of an attempt at smoking reduction or cessation.”

The authors also speculated that people using “first generation” vaping devices “report less satisfaction and poorer cessation outcomes compared to users of more advanced products, which allow the user to customize characteristics such as nicotine strength, flavorings, and battery power.”

The findings suggest that as technology continues to evolve, the “smart vape,” so to speak, actually could function to assist those looking to quit smoking.

“Without knowing detailed information about device attributes, user experiences, reasons for use, and other individual factors, the reasons for low quit rates among some day (vapers) and former triers are unclear,” the authors reported. “Dissatisfaction with nicotine delivery and other device characteristics may play a role in discontinued or intermittent (vaping) and inhibit cessation.”

Why this medical research is so solid

Previous “establishment” research largely has dismissed the notion that people are quitting smoking by vaping.

“Reports using national data frequently demonstrate that (vaping) is highest among current smokers and is relatively low among former and never smokers,” they admitted, “leading some to conclude that (vaping) encourages dual use and (is) not associated with smoking cessation.”

But the conclusion is flawed, they point out because former smokers get included in the data regardless of how long ago they quit. “(Vaping) could not have played a role in cessation for smokers who quit before the products entered the market.”

For that reason, this study only used data beginning in 2010, when the products became widely available nationwide.

The authors called for reframing future research into vaping as a tool for smoking cessation.

“Future cross-sectional and longitudinal research should incorporate nuanced measures of e-cigarette use, such as frequency and device attributes, as well as individual-level factors, such as nicotine dependence, intention to quit, and reasons for (vaping),” they wrote.

They also conceded that randomized controlled trials are a better way than surveys to know for certain if people are quitting smoking by vaping.

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