The role of electronic cigarettes in smoking cessation has been a highly debated topic over the last couple of years as critics, health organizations and news outlets continue to use flawed study results to create attention-grabbing headlines and anti-vaping campaigns to support the theory that vaping serves as a gateway to tobacco cigarettes. Several of the studies conducted regarding this topic have been proven to consist of misinterpreted results, the use of small samples, and flawed methods that don’t accurately represent the differences between smoking and vaping. On the other hand, the results of other studies have contradicted the gateway theory: yet, the media continues to focus on the flawed studies and put out headlines that suggest vaping leads to smoking. This is why the results of the largest e-cig survey to date are of great importance to the vaping industry: the results are based on real people with real experiences.
Largest E-Cig Survey Shows E-Cigs Help Smokers Quit
In November and December of 2015, the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association (CASAA), a non-profit organization consisting of over 120,000 members dedicated to promoting tobacco harm reduction policies, spreading e-cig awareness and lobbying against unjust regulations, conducted the largest survey of electronic cigarettes to date. This self-administered online survey was designed primarily to “provide information relevant to evaluating the FDA’s proposed regulation of e-cigarettes.” Some of the results were also reported to the OIRA, the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, during their review of the proposed regulations.
The target population for the survey included adult members of CASAA currently living in the US; however, non-members were also invited to participate via links through social media. A total of 27,343 subjects completed the survey, 20,454 of which were CASAA members. The respondents included a wide age range with 14% between the ages of 18 and 25, 30% between the ages of 26 and 35, 44% between the ages of 36 and 55, and 12% over the age of 55. From the total subjects surveyed, about 7,520 were excluded after indicating they either did not live in the US, were under the age of 18, had never been e-cig users or were not current e-cig users. The statistics presented in the report were for the remaining 19, 823 current e-cig users. Read on for a breakdown of the results.
From Smoking to Vaping
As all former smokers know, smoking is one of the hardest habits to break. Over the years, the FDA has approved a variety of smoking cessation products, from nicotine patches, gum and lozenges to prescription pills such as Chantix. These methods have mostly proven to be ineffective when it comes to long-term smoking cessation. Then came the electronic cigarette and the drastic decline in smoking rates. The survey included questions focused on the different methods participants have used to quit smoking, as well as the successes and failures of such methods and how those methods compared to successfully quitting smoking with the help of electronic cigarettes. The survey results indicated:
- 81% had tried unaided quitting
- 71% had tried to quit using NRT
- 41% had tried to quit using some other pharmaceutical (e.g. Chantix)
- 21% had tried formal counseling
- 21% had tried calling a quitline
- 8% volunteered some other method they tried
From the questions regarding successfully quitting smoking with the use of e-cigs, the results indicated:
- 87% quit smoking after taking up vaping
- 64% quit smoking within a few days after taking up vaping
- 72% of those who quit smoking with the help of e-cigs credited flavored vapor products in helping them quit
Of the 17,186 respondents who successfully quit smoking with the use of e-cigs, the results indicated:
- 64% had switched almost immediately, within a few days of taking up vaping
- 21% had used both for longer than a few days but quit smoking within a month
- 11% had used both for between one and six months before quitting smoking
- 3% had used both for more than six months
From the questions regarding the role e-cigs played in smoking cessation, the results indicated:
- 64% started using e-cigs with the intention of quitting smoking
- 25% started with the intention of merely reducing smoking but ended up switching entirely
- 11% started using e-cigs without the intention of quitting or reducing smoking but ended up switching entirely
As you can see from these results, e-cigs have played a major role in smoking cessation, which completely contradicts the theory that e-cigs serve as a gateway to tobacco rather than a successful quitting aid. The results of the latest CDC National Health Survey furthers this point even more as statistics show a drastic decline in smoking rates that falls right in line with the rise of vaping, although the CDC still neglects to acknowledge the role e-cigs have played in the decline. The UK, on the other hand, was quick to admit that e-cigs played an important role in the drastic decline of smoking rates within the country, particularly in England.
Medical Advice for Vaping
The health and safety of e-cigs still remains a very controversial topic as studies with varied results continue to top news headlines. This uncertainty has created a very difficult job for healthcare providers as they are tasked with providing medical advice to users and future users of e-cigs. Survey participants were asked about advice they had received from a healthcare provider about e-cigs, excluding counselors specifically consulted for smoking cessation (this question was motivated by OIRA previously indicating an interest). The survey results revealed that 35% of participants indicated they had never talked to a healthcare provider about e-cigs and 65% of the remaining participants indicated they received advice from one or more providers with these results:
- 10% indicated a provider got them interested in e-cigs in the first place
- 10% said a provider volunteered a recommendation to try e-cigs, though the participant was already using or considering using e-cigs
- 66% told the provider they were using e-cigs and the provider encouraged continuing
- 5% told a provider they were using e-cigs and were encouraged to discontinue
- 26% told a provider they were using e-cigs and received a neutral response
- 34% were told by a provider that e-cigs were low-risk
- 3% were told by a provider that e-cigs pose high risk
Based on these survey results, it may be safe to say that the majority of healthcare providers are in favor of the use of e-cigs over tobacco, despite any research suggesting otherwise. In part 2 of this article, we’ll take a look at what the survey says about e-cig flavors and regulations, so stay tuned!