Research: Does Vaping Reduce Cigarettes Consumed?

Posted 14th November 2018 by Dave Cross
Readers might assume that University of California San Diego (UCSD) researchers set out to do what University of California researchers do – this time debunking the fact that vaping works as a smoking cessation tool. What their results clearly demonstrate is that vaping increased the probability of a successful switch away from smoking, whereas the use of pharmaceutical therapies did not.

The team begin by setting out what they see as being supported by current evidence:

  • E-cigarettes have lower levels of toxicants than is found in smoke from combusted tobacco cigarettes
  • Experienced adult users of third-generation devices are able to extract similar levels of nicotine to cigarettes
  • The central potential benefit of e-cigarettes is to promote smoking cessation among established cigarette smokers or at least to reduce a smoker’s exposure to combustible tobacco products

The cohort they used for the study appears odd: “the majority being nondaily users”, and just “75% agreed that e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking cigarettes.”

The team found:

  • 25.2% used ENDS, while 23.5% used at least 1 approved pharmaceutical cessation aid (NRT, 18.7%; varenicline, 5.7%; bupropion, 3.1%)
  • A greater proportion of older quit attempters were users of approved pharmaceutical products, while fewer used ENDS as a cessation aid

They might have concluded, “Persistent abstinence from all tobacco at Wave 2 was lower in those using ENDS to quit than other groups,” but classifying vaping as a tobacco product undermines this. They see a difference between “Persistent Abstinence From All Tobacco” and, “Persistent Abstinence From Cigarettes Only”.

Combining the figures for people who vaped and went on to not use any nicotine product with the figure for those who switched fully from smoking to vaping highlights how well vaping worked when compared to the traditional NRT products – a success rate of 19.5% for vaping.

They concluded:

  • ENDS are a more popular choice than approved pharmaceutical products
  • It is possible that they may play a bigger role in assisting smokers to quit

The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World’s Charles Gardner said: “Vaping to quit cigarettes increased the probability of persistent cigarette abstinence... but using approved pharmaceutical aids (varenicline, bupropion, nicotine replacement therapy) DID NOT. Let me make a prediction: traditional tobacco control ‘experts’ will continue to claim that the evidence is not clear whether vaping helps smokers quit.”

Public Health England believes: “E-cigarettes have significant potential to help reduce tobacco use and the serious harm it causes to smokers, those around them and wider society. Recognition of this should be at the centre of policies on e-cigarette use in public places and workplaces.”

The National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training has produced a guidance leaflet about vaping for Stop Smoking Services.

The UCSD study: American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 187, Issue 11, 1 November 2018, Pages 2397–2404,

Kbox image by Johnny at

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker