JUN 27, 2021 5:49 AM PDT

Are e-cigarettes actually helpful for smoking cessation?

New research published in The Lancet Public Health reports on a study that looked at interventions targeting e-cigarettes. The study considered how dual users (who smoke both e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes) could use e-cigarettes to aid in smoking cessation. Almost 41% of the approximately 8 million adults in the U.S. using e-cigarettes are dual users; the study aimed to analyze the impact of e-cigarette use on people who begin using e-cigarettes as a way to wean off of smoking tobacco cigarettes.

"We were concerned that smokers who started vaping in order to quit smoking often ended up instead using both products," said Thomas Brandon, Ph.D., chair of the Health Outcomes & Behavior Department and director of the Tobacco Research and Intervention Program at Moffitt Cancer Center's Tobacco Research and Intervention Program. The concern is that using both e-cigarettes as a transition to stop using tobacco cigarettes ultimately only increases nicotine dependence and exposure to toxins. "This prompted our team to develop an easy-to-distribute intervention that could enhance dual users' smoking cessation efforts and maintain smoking abstinence."

Brandon collaborated with colleagues from Virginia Commonwealth University; Eastern Virginia Medical School; and the University of Auckland to create a series of "If You Vape" booklets produced from interviews with dual vapers. They then tested out the booklets’ utility by distributing them to almost 2,900 dual users that were categorized into three distinct groups: a control group that did not receive any intervention, a group that received standard smoking cessation materials, and a group that received the targeted intervention "If You Vape" booklets.

They found that the participants in the targeted intervention group demonstrated smoking abstinence rates from 5-10% higher than the control group and the standard group over the follow-up period of 18 months. The team also observed that more dependent smokers showed the highest percentage of benefit.

"Our study indicates that dual users could benefit from specific interventions that leverage their ongoing e-cigarette use, which in turn could expand the public health potential of e-cigarettes," said Brandon. "I think it is important to note that while our materials did not endorse the initiation of vaping, it also didn't demonize use. We treated vapers with respect and passed along information to help them achieve their goal of quitting smoking."

In the future, the team plans to continue their investigation to consider the impacts of alternative intervention modalities that could include a mobile application or trying the intervention in clinical settings.

Sources: The Lancet Public Health, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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