E-cigarette use has grown significantly in recent years — as has the rate of people who quit smoking.
Two recent studies concluded that those trends are related.
A published in July concluded that e-cigarette users were more likely to attempt to quit smoking, as well as succeed in quitting, than those who don’t use the electronic devices.
Another study, published last week, sheds more light on that trend.
It found the odds of successfully quitting, defined as not smoking for at least three months, increased by 10 percent with each additional day of e-cigarette use.
Researchers reported that nearly 1 in 4 of those who used e-cigarettes five to nine days over the previous month were successful in quitting, as were 1 in 3 of those who used the electronic devices for 25 to 30 days.
But the study also found plenty of variation in the numbers.
Quit success was lower for those who had previously used e-cigarettes prior to trying to quit.
The success rate was also much lower for African-Americans than the population of smokers as a whole.
Collecting the data
The studies relied on data from the Tobacco Use Supplement of the U.S. Current Population Survey, a National Cancer Institute-sponsored survey administered every three to four years.
The latest data were from 2014 and 2015, and included more than 150,000 respondents.
“We found fairly consistent results,” compared with the July study, David Levy, PhD, a study author and a professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, told Healthline. “The main difference is we looked at the role of intensity of use of e-cigarettes… And we found an even stronger relationship.”
Levy says the data are consistent with a dose response — the more frequently a smoker uses e-cigarettes, the more likely they are to successfully quit traditional cigarettes.
But the inverse might also be true.
The American Lung Association has said it is “concerned about e-cigarettes becoming a gateway to regular cigarettes, especially in light of the aggressive industry marketing tactics targeted at youth — including the use of candy flavors and the glamorization of e-cigarette use.”
Do e-cigarettes lead to regular cigarettes?
The use of e-cigarettes now exceeds that of traditional cigarettes in 14- to 30-year-olds, according to a June study.
It also found “strong and consistent evidence” that using the e-cigarettes leads to the use of traditional cigarettes in adolescents and young adults.
The Lung Association has previously called claims that e-cigarettes can aid in helping smokers quit “unproven.”
Reynolds American Inc., the United States’ second largest tobacco company, and maker of several e-cigarette and vapor products, said in a statement, “Our vapor products are tobacco products. They are not quit-smoking products and we do not market them as such.”
Early success rates
There are other products — gums, patches — that can help smokers quit, but Levy said that many of them were highly successful when they first came out, and then that success rate dropped off.
“It’s more an example of easier picking. Those who were more apt to quit were more likely to use them and be successful,” he said.
“This paper provides evidence that e-cigarettes are a useful cessation strategy. Those who have tried to quit and failed using other therapies can benefit from e-cigarettes,” Levy added.
Will this new technology see a drop-off in success rates similar to other products?
Levy thinks it depends on having regulations that are flexible enough to allow companies, particularly smaller, independent ones, to come up with improved products.
As for what those improved products may look like, they “could be cleaner, lower risk, get nicotine to those addicted more efficiently, can better satisfy nicotine cravings,” he said. “We’re already talking about the third generation of e-cigarettes… If we just go by the first five years, a lot is likely to change.”