The debate over the benefits and potential harms of e-cigarettes has raged on across the media in recent months. Now, research published in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that there is no association between e-cigarette use and reduced cigarette consumption.
Medical News Today recently ran a spotlight feature summarizing the controversies surrounding electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) - the popular cigarette substitutes that are often marketed as a smoking cessation tool.
In that piece, Dr. Maciej L. Goniewicz, from the Roswell Cancer Park Institute in Buffalo, NY, told us:
"Statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed slight decrease in smoking prevalence among US adults between 2008 and 2011. We do not know whether it can be attributed to increasing popularity of e-cigarettes. We need to closely monitor this trend over the next few years to understand effects of e-cigarettes on population level."
Generally, medical professionals have argued that it is too soon to judge whether e-cigarettes are an effective tool for helping to quit traditional cigarettes, or whether they actually encourage smoking.
Earlier this month, JAMA Pediatrics also published a study highlighting an association between the use of e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes in American adolescents, which suggested that e-cigarettes may contribute to nicotine addiction.
In the new study, researchers surveyed 949 current smokers, asking:
- How many cigarettes the participants smoke each day
- How long it is until the participants' first cigarette of the day
- If and when they intend on quitting smoking
- Whether the participants had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.
E-cigarette users were not more likely to either successfully quit or want to quit
Although 13.5% of the study sample did quit smoking, very few of the successful quitters used e-cigarettes.
From their results, the researchers found that significantly more women, younger adults and people with less education used e-cigarettes.
Also, people who used e-cigarettes were more likely to smoke their first cigarette less than 30 minutes after waking up. The study also reports that e-cigarette users were not more likely to want to quit smoking than non-users.
Overall, the researchers found that there was not a significant link between using e-cigarettes and quitting smoking. Although 13.5% of the sample did quit smoking, very few of the successful quitters used e-cigarettes.
The authors of the study conclude by asserting that:
"Regulations should prohibit advertising claiming or suggesting that e-cigarettes are effective smoking cessation devices until claims are supported by scientific evidence."
In a linked comment, Dr. Mitchell H. Katz, deputy editor of JAMA Internal Medicine, writes that "Although there are no data showing that e-cigarette use helps with cessation, there is potential harm. In particular, e-cigarettes are currently unregulated."
"Therefore, the tough restrictions on the sale of tobacco to minors do not exist for e-cigarettes. Also, the limitations on where people can smoke do not currently apply to e-cigarettes, with the result that the progress on changing social norms through smoking bans may be threatened. Finally, we simply do not know what potential harm e-cigarettes may cause to their users."