Do E-Cigs Really Help People Kick Their Tobacco Habit?

By McCarton Ackerman 01/20/16

New research suggests that people hoping to quit might be in for a big surprise.


Those who use e-cigarettes in the hopes of kicking a tobacco habit are likely in for a rude awakening. A new study has found that vaping yields no positive impact for those looking to quit using tobacco cigarettes.

The findings, published in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine, came from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. They collected data by analyzing the results of 38 worldwide studies previously done on e-cigarette use. The researchers found that not only did e-cigs fail to promote quitting tobacco cigarettes, but might actually create more harm than good in that goal.

"The irony is that quitting smoking is one of the main reasons both adults and kids use e-cigarettes, but the overall effect is less, not more, quitting," said study co-author Stanton Glantz. "While there is no question that a puff on an e-cigarette is less dangerous than a puff on a conventional cigarette, the most dangerous thing about e-cigarettes is that they keep people smoking conventional cigarettes."

However, some researchers have objected to the new findings, Ann McNeill, a King's College London professor of tobacco addiction, said the study used two research projects she previously authored in ways that were “either inaccurate or misleading.” She also claimed that their review was “not scientific.”

Peter Hajek, director of the Queen Mary University of London's Tobacco Dependence Research Unit, also called the study “grossly misleading.” He objected to the U.S. team not including smokers who used e-cigs to quit, but rather just those who used them at some point in their life.

But it’s not just tobacco cigarettes that smokers need to look at quitting. Electronic cigarette use has risen so drastically among teenagers, perhaps in their own bid to quit tobacco, that more teens are now using e-cigs than traditional cigarettes. Federal data released last April shows that e-cig use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, rising to 13%. Meanwhile, tobacco smoking among high school students dropped from 16% in 2011 to 9% in 2014.

Although selling e-cigarettes to minors is illegal in most states, many teens can get around this by simply buying the devices online and clicking “yes” to verify they are over 18.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.