There has always been a fair amount of argument on both sides of the debate on whether or not e-cigarettes have any potential to help you quit smoking. Those who are opponents of the e-cigarettes industry claim they are more likely gateway devices to encourage nicotine use, rather than devices that can help people stop smoking the more dangerous traditional cigarette. Those who have had experience, however, will testify to the power of the e-cigarette to aid in cessation and help turn a lifetime smoker into a non-smoker.
The truth is, however, that with only a few years on the market under their belt, it is impossible to calculate if they are truly cessation devices, at least in the long term sense. New research, however, is suggesting that there really may be a tie between smoking cessation and e-cigarettes, a correlation that could dampen the claims of the e-cigarette opponents.
The recent data we are seeing is coming from the Smoking Toolkit Study, which is a periodic study of smoking cessation trends in England. Their polls suggest that the success rate for smokers who tried to quit increased from 14% in 2011 to 23% in 2016. Considering there was virtually no rate change in success rates from 2007 to 2011, these findings suggest there is something new in the world of smoking cessation.
For years, there have been gums and patches, as well as other NRTs (Nicotine Replacement Therapies), and while these have proven successful for some, there has been no dramatic change in the success rate of smoking cessation recorded, until recently. It’s hard not to make the connection, which as smoking cessation rose steadily over the last few years, and even more so in 2015, that the new product on the market, e-cigarettes, might just have something to do with it.
Before the success rates of smoking cessation started increasing in 2011, there were hardly any smokers trying to quit using e-cigarettes, in fact, e-cigarettes hadn’t gained in popularity yet. At this time, 30% of those surveyed trying to quit were using some other form of NRTs. If you look at the data from the end of 2015, however, you will find that 40% of those trying to quit are turning to e-cigs for help, while other NRTs are only used by about 10% of the population.
In 2011, the percentage of those who had successfully quit smoking in a year was 4.6% in 2015 is was 7.5%. It’s hard not to put causation squarely in e-cigarettes lap when the rise in successful quitting rates has grown at the same time that the people surveyed began using e-cigarette for cessation purposes.
This is not some fluke either while there has been a rise in success rate and an increase in e-cig use, there has been no rise, nor decrease, of people trying to quit smoking. The correlation is easy to see, and perhaps that is why many experts are putting their two cents in about this new data.
Dr. Michael Siegel is an outspoken e-cigarette advocate and professor at the Boston University School of Public Health. He agrees that the evidence points toward e-cigarettes having a major impact on smoking cessation. He states that it appears the rise in e-cigarette use, “has fueled the increased rates of smoking cessation in England during the past five years.”
While it appears there is little way to argue that e-cigarettes do have an effect on smoking cessation, it’s important to remember that just because someone uses e-cigarettes, doesn’t mean they are a non-smoker, necessarily. While for some, they have reported that they do ultimately reach full smoking cessation, others just cut back. That fact does not change that people have found total cessation success, as demonstrated in the latest data. It is true that as a cessation device, e-cigarettes are not fully proven, and, in the end, they may not work for everyone– but still, the data suggests there is a strong partnership at work here.