In their paper, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, the team noted: “The proliferation of electronic nicotine delivery systems has generated a rapidly growing yet divergent literature on how these products impact smoking behaviour. Evidence suggests that the majority of ENDS users have intention to reduce and/or quit smoking.” But, despite recent studies documenting a positive association between ecig use and subsequent quitting, “not all studies have been consistent, and some have shown negative associations with quitting.”
The study was led by Matthew Carpenter, a tobacco control and addiction expert at the Medical University of South Carolina. “Combustible cigarettes are the most harmful form of nicotine delivery,” he said. “Alternative delivery of nicotine, through e-cigarettes, could significantly reduce harm and the risks of cancer and other diseases to smokers.”
Sixty-eight smokers were evaluated, with 46 randomised to use ecigs however they wished and 22 in a control group. At the end of the four-month study, the team discovered that vaping was popular, many went on to buy their own device afterwards, and that those who’d vaped smoked less.
Carpenter explained: “The results are consistent with trials done outside the U.S. Many people rated the e-cigarettes similar to their usual product, which further suggests that these products might promote switching. Anything that gets smokers off combustible cigarettes is a good thing.”
Carpenter tempers the good news with some predictably American caution: “It is important to protect non-smokers, particularly adolescents and young adults, from starting any nicotine-containing product. This is something we need to really guard against. We know e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, but that doesn’t mean e-cigarettes are completely safe.”
“We’ve gotten very good at the public health messaging of conventional smoking and prevention efforts for adolescents, but now kids see a new technology-based product that is supposedly safer, flavoured and isn’t a cigarette. These are all these things that raise our alarm bells for adolescents, and, in fact, e-cigarettes are more popular than conventional cigarettes among youth.”
He fuelled fears by warning that there are over “1,500 varieties” of vapes that “can entice kids”.
With the cancer centre announcing that it plans on scaling up the research, to cover over 650 smokers in 2018, we hope that they focus on the harm reduction aspect more than the fear-mongering.