Study Shows that 74 Percent of Ex-Smokers Quit with E-Cigarettes
By Lindsay Fox Posted July 2, 2013
New research from the University of East London has added further evidence that e-cigarettes are extremely effective for reducing cigarette use, with a total of 88 percent of the sample reporting at least a significant reduction in smoking.
The full study is available in the June edition of the journal Addiction, and provides evidence in support of many things that the vaping community has been aware of for a long time. This article introduces the research and discusses the most important – and noteworthy – findings.
The study was conducted based on the responses of 1,347 users of the Electronic Cigarette Company and Totally Wicked E-Liquid sites, and was primarily composed of ex-smokers (83 percent of the sample). The questions assessed the participants’ use of electronic cigarettes and cigarettes (with past use being reported for ex-smokers), and also asked related questions about things like side effects and how it impacted on their cravings.
The Main Finding
The most significant finding of the study was that 74 percent of the entire sample reported that they had not smoked cigarettes for anything from several weeks to several months after starting to use electronic cigarettes. This is virtually three quarters of the sample – and the outlook for e-cigs brightens up even more when the fact that an additional 14 percent said that their cigarette consumption had decreased dramatically.
Although complete abstinence from smoking is obviously a preferable outcome, it speaks volumes that 88 percent of the sample smoked dramatically less (with the majority not smoking at all) after using e-cigs. It adds to plenty of other research with similar findings, and makes the complaints that “there’s no evidence of how effective they are for quitting smoking” sound even more ridiculous than it already did.
The study collected information on the tobacco cigarette cravings of the current and ex-smokers in the sample, with a massive 91 percent reporting a “substantial” decrease after starting to use an electronic cigarette. This statistic was misinterpreted in a newspaper headline in the UK – since a reduction in cravings is not the same as quitting completely – but it’s still a huge plus-point for e-cigs.
Cravings are what drag people back into addiction, so whilst reducing cravings doesn’t necessarily equal reducing consumption, it follows logically that it would cause a reduction in consumption. Indeed, this study showed that 91 percent had significantly reduced cravings and 88 percent reduced their consumption significantly, so pretending that those figures don’t have any relationship to each other (despite their obvious relationship and numerical similarity) is ridiculous.
Time to First Smoke vs. Time to First Vape
One of the most important questions on the Fagerstrӧm Test for Nicotine Dependence is about how soon after getting up you smoke your first cigarette (or indeed, take your first vape), and it was used as part of the study. As you might expect, the sooner you smoke a cigarette (or take a puff on your e-cig), the higher your rating for nicotine dependence.
In the test, they found that amongst the ex-smokers, the time until taking their first vape was significantly shorter than their time until their first smoke. This indicates that nicotine dependence decreases for people who use e-cigarettes; although it’s worth mentioning that the study also found that most e-cig users don’t try to decrease their usage. This is consistent with the harm reduction purpose of e-cigs – it’s used as a safer alternative to smoking.
The researchers also asked the survey participants about any adverse effects they’d noticed since using an e-cigarette. They found that there were very few negative effects of using e-cigarettes, with the most common ones being mouth and throat irritation. Overall, fewer than 16 percent of participants reported any negative effect, with the vast majority experiencing none at all.
The results show that less than one percent of users report experiencing any one side effect all of the time, with the vast majority of them being persistent with fewer than 0.5 percent of users. Additionally, 70 percent of the sample said they breathed easier after starting vaping.
- Check out this article: How Electronic Cigarettes Affect Your Lungs: Results of an Online Survey (Ashtray Blog)
Of course – as with any piece of research – there are limitations to this study. The most significant one of these was the source of the participants, gathered from e-cigarette websites and probably more likely to have good things to say about the technology. This doesn’t completely nullify the findings, of course, but it may mean that negative effects were under-reported, for example. However, most of us have enough personal experience to know that most vapers experience benefits rather than negative side effects when they make the switch, so the result seems to stand to reason.
Another important point is that the majority of the sample was made up of ex-smokers who reported on their cigarette usage based on their memory. Memory is very fallible, which means that the participants could have subconsciously played up the amount they used to smoke or the previous level of their addiction because they like using e-cigs. However, since the findings fall in line with other research on the same issues, it seems like the result is relatively accurate.
This article has endeavored to provide the full story behind this study – including its limitations. It’s important that we in the vaping community base our arguments on a genuine understanding of the research on the topic. Unlike those who oppose the technology, we need to deal in evidence, and no one study can “prove” that e-cigarettes are safe and an effective method of quitting smoking.
The scientific process takes time, but fortunately, evidence that e-cigarettes are revolutionary tools for tobacco harm reduction is continually mounting. Even if an adjustment was made for the potential sources of bias, the conclusion of this study would still come through strong: e-cigarettes seem to reduce adverse effects, help the vast majority of people stop smoking (or significantly decrease their consumption) and notably reduce cravings.