Research shows that e-liquids containing high levels of nicotine are more effective than low nicotine, but both lead to a significant reduction
One of the longest standing and most disputed debates surrounding vaping continues to be whether or not they can be successfully used as a smoking cessation device. Proponents often reference research from institutions like Public Health England that indicate vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking, but less research exists for their utility as a quitting aid. Because of this, detractors will point to dual use, and its potential harm, as a reason to stay away from e-cigarettes altogether. But brand new research out of the Medical University of South Carolina’s Hollings Cancer Center shows a clear connection between vaping and a reduction in cigarette smoking in the real world.
The researchers found that e-liquids containing higher levels of nicotine led users to smoke less and attempt quitting more often. Combustible cigarettes are the most harmful way to receive nicotine and alternative methods, such as vaping represent a way to reduce the risk of death and disease significantly. But they were clear that these results are contingent not only the level of nicotine present but also factors such as individual habits and preferences.
The study was led by Dr. Matthew Carpenter, along with a team of researchers. They wanted to understand how vaping works as a smoking cessation tool when presented in a naturalistic way. That is, opposed to most previous studies looking at the connection between vaping and smoking; the vaping participants were not instructed to vape in any specific way or rate. In fact, they were not even required to abstain entirely from cigarettes, as is the case for most similar studies. This allowed them to better understand precisely how vaping works as a smoking cessation device in the real world where the user has ultimate control over whether or not they vape and how they do so.
They selected 68 participants, 22 of which were randomly chosen to be in the control group. Of the 46 remaining participants, half received devices with higher levels of nicotine (24mg) and the other half got lower nicotine (16mg). All of the participants were tracked over a four-month period, with particular attention paid to usage, device preference, behavior changes, as well as nicotine exposure.
After their four-month study, the researchers discovered some fascinating results. All of the e-cigarette participants had used the device at least one time, with a full 48% of the 24mg group vaping for the entire study. A significant portion of the 16mg group also vaped for the whole duration, but the number dropped down to 30%. More interestingly, over half of the 24mg group (57%), and over a quarter of the 16mg group (28%) had made an independent purchase of a vaporizer during the study. But perhaps the most critical finding was that both the 24mg and 16mg groups “significantly reduced their smoking, whereas control participants did not.”
Dr. Carpenter was encouraged by their results, hoping to prove that vaping is one of the most vital tools we have in the fight against tobacco. “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.” But this excitement also came with an appropriate level of trepidation, as the researchers acknowledge that while these devices can significantly reduce the risk posed to smokers, caution should be taken when advertising and promoting them to avoid getting teens and non-smokers hooked.
The Hollings Cancer Center study is an essential piece of the puzzle for vaping rights. The question posed by researchers is one that will have a massive effect on the future of e-cigarettes. There have been other studies that take a look at this issue, but none have done so in a naturalistic way until now. With the results of Dr. Carpenter and his team, we can be more confident that similar results in more controlled studies will potentially carry over to the real world. Until more people understand that vaping is not only much safer than smoking, but also one of the best tools we have to get smokers off cigarettes, e-cigarettes will continue to suffer from a negative reputation. We can all agree that smoking is extremely detrimental, so we should be doing whatever we can to support such a potentially game-changing tool.
How long did it take you to acclimate to vaping over smoking fully? Was it an easy switch or did you feel it took a lot of willpower? Do you think that more research like this is the key to improving the poor reputation of vaping in the general public? Let us know what you think in the comments.