The controversial topic of e-cigarettes has been overtaking the media ever since we were hit by the surprising popularity of vaporisers in 2013. By 2014, half of smokers had tried e-cigarettes, 2.1 million people were using them, and an estimated 17.3 million devices had been sold in the UK. But will they help us stop smoking?
Two studies conducted by King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience showed that in order for smokers to successfully stop smoking, people will need to use their e-cigarettes on a daily basis rather than in irregular intervals. These studies also showed that those giving up smoking should up their daily nicotine dose in order to help them quit. But surely this defeats the object of using vaporisers in the hope of beating a nicotine addiction?
The First Study
The first study was published in Addiction, and was conducted using 1500 smokers in December 2012 and then again a year later in order to compare the results 12 months on. 65% of those using an e-cigarette every day made an attempt to give up smoking within the year, whereas only 44% of smokers who did no use e-cigarettes made this same attempt. The study showed that there was no evidence to say that daily e-cigarette users successfully quit smoking by the end of the year, but 14% had reduced their tobacco consumption by half.
The lead author of the study, Dr Leonie Brose, stated that she “looked at smokers who were using [e-cigarettes] for any reason, including just to cut down on their smoking or in situations when they cannot smoke”, and this may be one of the downfalls of this study.
Surely those using e-cigarettes every single day in regular intervals were more likely to have been aiming to stop smoking normal cigarettes, or at least cut down, instead of using them for convenience as those only occasionally using may have been.
Whilst the study concluded that those using e-cigarettes everyday were more likely to decrease their tobacco intake within a year, it may have been due to the fact that these were the smokers who were wanting to stop, rather than those who were using e-cigarettes for convenience every now and then.
Whilst a much smaller percentage of smokers who were not using e-cigarettes tried to give up within the year, these numbers may be a reflection on the fact that those thinking about giving up smoking at the start of the year were more likely to invest in an e-cigarette, and that a high percentage of those not using e-cigarettes had no intention of quiting.
The Second Study
The second study, published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, showed that those who used the refillable tank model of e-cigarette were more successful in trying to quit smoking. The research conducted showed that 28% of those who were using refillable tank models everyday had given up tobacco smoking entirely within one year. This was a lot higher than the statistics of smokers who did not use e-cigarettes (13%), and those who used tank models on an occasional basis.
Whilst this study may suggest that in order to successfully stop tobacco smoking, users must increase their tobacco intake so that they are using their e-cigarettes daily, there are views that clearly contradict this. Were those participating in the study that used tank models on an occasional basis still smoking normal cigarettes too? How long were these people using e-cigarettes for? Were those using tank models only occasionally doing so when they were not able to smoke? Did they have any intention of cutting down?
These are all vital questions that need to be asked before jumping to the conclusion that increasing nicotine levels will help smokers to quit successfully. It seems as though each smoker is an individual case, and that intentions play a big part in discovering whether e-cigarettes will help to stop tobacco intake. Perhaps there is a gap in research for a study similar to this looking only at those either wanting to quit smoking entirely or not looking to quit.