E-cigarettes, and the vaping industries that are growing up around them, are one of the fastest expanding trends in recent history. And while their health risks seem practically nonexistent in comparison to their combustible predecessors, the main concern of many educated consumers regards the outcomes of the countless scientific studies that are beginning to permeate the e-cigarette world.
You hear one day, e-cigarettes are hailed as the greatest invention with the potential to save millions of lives, but then the next day you’ll hear how they contain toxic metals or are a gateway “drug” for youth and adolescents. The truth is the e-cigarette industry has grown at such a rapid speed than the scientific community can’t even hope to keep up with it. In addition, with e-cigarettes only hitting the marketplace in 2007, there simply are not cases to study the effects of long term use.
One area of study that is easier to access, however, is e-cigarettes and if they can be an effective method to aid in the battle to stop smoking. The journal, Addiction, a publication from the Society for the Study of Addiction, performed a study confirming what many people already knew, that e-cigarettes could be an excellent tool in the battle to quitting smoking. Even the American Heart Association has recognized the benefits of vaping instead of smoking and has come out in support of the use of e-cigarettes as a cessation method.
And now, as if there wasn’t enough proof, yet another set of studies is confirming their effectiveness even further. Just last month a review was released by the Cochran Collaboration, an independent, international medical research organization. The review was led by Doctor Peter Hajek of Queen Mary College of the University of London. The researchers examined results from 13 trials of e-cigarettes and found encouraging results for the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as quitting tools.
Two of the studies presented were randomized control trials, a highly effect form of medical evidence in which doctors assign volunteers at random to the effect being studied and then compare the results. In the cases in question the e-cigarettes were examined in comparison to a placebo e-cigarette that resembled the real thing, but delivered no nicotine.
Approximately 9% of people using the real electronic cigarettes were able to abstain from smoking for six months, with only 4% of those using the placebos successfully quitting. Subjects were event given biochemical tests to ensure that they were honest about actually quitting. In addition, e-cigarettes also seem to help those who couldn’t quit at least cut back. Both studies suggested that e-cigarettes helps many users cut their consumption down a significant level. Thirty-six percent of users who began using e-cigarettes were able to cut their consumption by half, or even more. Even 27% of smokers using placebo e-cigarettes were able to do the same.
Another study presented by the Cochran Collaboration also found that e-cigarettes were more effective than nicotine patches in encouraging abstinence. The researchers discovered that 61% of e-cigarette users were able to cut their consumption by half, compared with only 44% of those using patches. Helping support these conclusions are 11 additional investigations, which are known as cohort studies, where the doctor merely monitors his patients’ progress for a set period of time, without attempting to influence their choices and behavior.
These findings still are limited, as the sample sizes of the studies in Dr. Hajek’s review are relatively small. However, since successfully quitting smoking still remains such a rare event, it is near impossible to conduct a study that can truly be statistically valid. The studies do, however, reveal an undeniable trend in success rates of smoking cessation when e-cigarettes are involved in the quitting process.
The review also noted that some of the clinical trials used now outdated forms of e-cigarettes that do not contain the nicotine punch of more modern style vaping devices; that difference could perhaps produce an even greater success rate if used in future studies. They also noted that e-cigarettes do not benefit from the standardized industrial processes that traditional cigarettes do. In the absence of mandatory regulation for e-cigarette devices some manufacturers produce lesser quality products. When quality is variable some devices, often made in China where nearly 90% of e-cigarette related devices and products are manufactured, produce less than favorable results in some studies. Some have even been found to have metals from the heating element in what is supposed to be a healthier vapor. This, however, is not a factor if you purchase from a well-known manufacturer, a practice many vapers have been adopting for years.
These variables will likely not be a factor in future studies as more reputable manufacturers and more advanced technology are becoming the norm of the industry. The Cochran Collaboration identified nine new trials that are currently underway, which if they come back similarly to what they have already reviewed, will be favorable for the e-cigarette industry. As more studies, like these nine upcoming ones, continue to confirm the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarette use it will hopefully help curb the ever-present skepticism against vaping and the industry as a whole.