Thursday, April 10, 2014

New Data from England Suggest that Electronic Cigarettes are Helping to Accelerate Smoking Cessation, Not Hinder It

In contrast to the claims of many anti-smoking advocates, led by Stan Glantz, new evidence from England suggests that electronic cigarettes are helping to accelerate smoking cessation, rather than hinder it.

(See: West R, Brown J, Beard E. Trends in electronic cigarette use in England. Smoking Toolkit Study. London: University College London, April 4, 2014.)

According to this study, the prevalence of electronic cigarette use in England was very low in 2011, but it took off in 2012 and has continued to climb steadily through the first quarter of 2014. The key finding from the study is that the annual rate of smoking cessation (that is, the percentage of current smokers who quit smoking during the past year), which had reached a low of 4.6% in 2011, increased markedly to 6.2% in 2012, 6.1% in 2013, and 8.7% for the first quarter of 2014, concomitant with the dramatic rise in electronic cigarette use among these smokers.

The proliferation of electronic cigarettes in England has also been associated with a dramatic increase in the proportion of smokers who tried to stop in the past year (from 33.5% in 2011 to 40.3% in 2014) and an increase in the success rate for smokers who tried to quit (from 13.7% in 2011 to 21.4% in 2014).

The proliferation of electronic cigarettes was also associated with an acceleration in the decline in smoking prevalence.

Taken together, these data suggest that the widespread use of electronic cigarette among smokers in England has advanced the degree of smoking cessation.

The authors conclude that: 
  • "Evidence does not support the view that electronic cigarettes are undermining motivation to quit or reduction in smoking prevalence"; and
  • "Evidence conflicts with the view that electronic cigarettes are undermining tobacco control or ‘renormalizing’ smoking, and they may be contributing to a reduction in smoking prevalence through increased success at quitting smoking."
The Rest of the Story

Opponents of electronic cigarettes have spent most of their time speculating about the negative impact of these products. They have argued that electronic cigarettes undermine the motivation to quit, normalize smoking, and undermine years of tobacco control efforts. However, a look at the actual scientific evidence suggests that this is not the case at all. Quite the opposite, it appears that electronic cigarettes are enhancing the process of smoking cessation among active smokers.

This evidence needs to be confirmed in other countries, but it does suggest that electronic cigarettes could play a role in helping to facilitate or enhance smoking cessation, rather than detract from it. In contrast to the arguments of opponents, vaping does not appear to renormalize smoking, but to further de-normalize it.

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