E-cigarettes don’t help smokers stop smoking (or smoke less)

Electronic cigarettes don’t help people quit smoking or even smoke less. This conclusion – which further squashes hopes that e-cigarettes might enable America’s 42 million smokers to quit – comes from one of the largest studies of e-cigarette users to date, recently published in the American Journal of Public Health. In 2011, American researchers interviewed 1,000 adult smokers in California. One year later, the researchers found that Californians who either quit smoking or smoked less were less likely to have ever used e-cigarettes. The study’s findings agree with recent research that e-cigarettes do not help smokers quit, and may even make smokers more dependent on the nicotine in cigarettes.

These results arrive in the midst of a massive increase in e-cigarette use. In 2014, 13 out of every 100 high schoolers reported having used e-cigarettes – a ten-fold increase in popularity since just 2011. In 2011, more than 6 out of every 100 American adults reported using e-cigarettes, a doubling from just the previous year. Part of this increasing popularity among adult smokers likely comes from their perception that e-cigarettes help with quitting. Indeed, the researchers reported that the Californian smokers who had tried (and mostly failed) to quit were more likely to have used e-cigarettes. Unfortunately, this study demonstrates that using e-cigarettes and actually quitting – as opposed to intending to quit – were mutually exclusive.

Al-Delaimy WK, Myers MG, Leas EC, Strong DR, & Hofstetter CR (2015). E-cigarette use in the past and quitting behavior in the future: a population-based study. American journal of public health, 105 (6), 1213-9 PMID: 25880947