Study Suggests That E-Cigarettes Help Smokers Quit
New e-cigarette research is taking an unprecedented look at a host of studies previously published in the last couple years. Its findings? E-cigarettes can in fact lead to a decrease in smoking, if not quitting cigarettes entirely.
This has been a hotly debated topic over the last decade, though most research chooses not to address the difficult task of determining causality. Causality examines whether one event or practice causes another, and it’s at the heart of a lot of problems when it comes to cigarette cessation, because there are multiple variables as to why someone would choose to use cigarettes or vapor devices.
The research study in question was spearheaded by the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Henry Saffer, Bentley University’s Dhaval Dave, City University of New York’s Michael Grossman, and CUNY PhD candidate Daniel Dench. It was published in January 2018 and the estimates use data from various studies spanning the years 2014 to 2016.
Their study concluded that by taking causality into account, e-cigarette use increases the probability that a smoker will either attempt to quit, or that they are more likely to quit over time.
The question of causality is at the heart of this study. It acknowledges the declining number of smokers and the rising number of vapers in the United States. It also looks at various studies that examined smoking cessation and different methods that various studies have addressed over the years.
Part of the problem is causality can be hard to determine, in that causality can work in both directions (use of vaping could motivate someone to smoke, or use of cigarettes could influence wanting to try vaping). Additionally, some underlying and unobserved variables could be driving changes in demand for both products including the economy and supply and demand.
This is incredibly important when considering the negative stories that frequently surface concerning vaping. Many of these reports draw a causal link that suggests vapor products lead people to smoke, despite there never having been a study conducted to date that examines causality. This leads to potentially misleading headlines that assert vaping is a gateway to increased cigarette usage.
The methodology for this study was to compile information from previous studies and to try to determine, based on the existing data, whether or not a link in causality could be drawn between the use of either cigarettes or e-cigarettes. To determine the link they accumulated data and used an equation that addressed e-cig prices and the number of quitting attempts.
In these prior studies, it was determined “that successful quitting may follow after a few years of e-cig use” but their conclusions were limited because it was only in a one-year window, while not really being able to determine if a former smoker goes back after over a year.
By wading through these various studies to accumulate a point for a larger conclusion. To the best of their limited abilities, they determined that with e-cigarettes there was more of a pathway towards cessation.
“Although there is no evidence in the TUS regressions that ecigs use affects the probability of a successful quit, the results for attempts, failures and reduction of smoking suggest that e-cigs create a path toward cessation,” reads the study’s abstract.
Essentially, it seems vapers have just as hard a time quitting as other smokers who haven’t tried vapor products. This may come as a surprise to many of us in the vapor community, because we’re surrounded by success stories, by the people who hung in there long enough to quit tobacco. But that’s attributable to confirmation bias – how many people who didn’t quit spend time hanging around vape forums or blogs?
The bigger picture is this – researchers found that while vapers weren’t necessarily any more successful in their quit attempts, they were more likely to attempt to quit, and to attempt quitting more often than smokers who didn’t vape. Even if it takes the average smoker six quit attempts before they’re successful, it seems vaping spurs smokers to make those attempts sooner and more often, meaning that the end result is more people quitting smoking, even if they’re going through the same struggles as others.
Even in the worst case scenario, researchers said that vaping at least results in a reduction of smoking among those who continue using cigarettes. Even if that meager result were the sum total of vaping’s benefits, it would still be a good thing.