“E-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals, which has led many public health advocates to shun them. But they are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, which can cause a dozen types of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” says the MUSC Hollings Cancer Centre.
“This new study, the largest trial of e-cigarettes in the U.S., showed that e-cigarette usage nudged people toward quitting smoking – even people who had entered the trial saying they had no intention of quitting.”
The team’s results were published in eClinical Medicine this month, linked below.
Dr Matthew Carpenter, first author on the paper and co-leader of the Cancer Control Research Program at Hollings, said: “This is not a panacea for smoking cessation."
He admitted to being surprised to discover that all of the hypotheses tested were confirmed.
Carpenter continued: “It’s rarely the case that you’re proven correct for almost everything that you predicted. Here, it was one effect after another: No matter how we looked at it, those who got the e-cigarette product demonstrated greater abstinence and reduced harm as compared to those who didn’t get it.”
The team say they designed the study “in a naturalistic way” to mimic real-world conditions as much as possible – claiming this to be “a first for e-cigarette studies”.
Carpenter said that previous studies which have demonstrated a smoking cessation benefit by using vapes “have been very structured”. He claims they all recruited people who wanted to stop smoking and gave them very detailed instructions about how to use the e-cigarettes. This isn’t completely true for independent UK studies which have already demonstrated vaping efficacy for smokers who hadn’t previously considered quitting – including those who claimed not to want to quit.
Dr Carpenter added: “Some people have said, ‘That’s fine, but the results of those studies don't apply to the real world because the real world isn’t as structured’. So what we did was take a hands-off approach – we called it a naturalistic approach. First off, we took smokers who did and did not want to quit. So right off the bat, not everybody wanted to quit. Secondly, we gave them very little instruction on how to use it.”
Following the success of the study, he stated: “No one wants e-cigarettes in the hands of kids, and we should do all we can to stop that. But we shouldn’t do so by denying this option for adult smokers who can’t otherwise quit."
- Matthew J. Carpenter et al, Effect of unguided e-cigarette provision on uptake, use, and smoking cessation among adults who smoke in the USA: a naturalistic, randomised, controlled clinical trial, eClinicalMedicine (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.eclinm.2023.102142