A new study released this month found smokers who use e-cigarettes as a method of avoiding real cigarettes are more likely to return to smoking traditional cigarettes than former smokers who did not use e-cigarettes or other nicotine replacement therapies.
The study, published in JAMA Open on Tuesday, reported finding people who had quit smoking cigarettes and attempted to use e-cigarettes to prevent themselves from smoking were 8.5% more likely to relapse and begin smoking cigarettes again than people who had either quit cold turkey, or people who had used Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) methods. The author of the study, John Pierce, said in a statement “This is the first study to report on whether cigarette smokers can switch to e-cigarettes without relapsing to cigarette smoking.”
Conducted by UC San Diego Institute for Public Health in the Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Sciences, Pierce says “the evidence indicates that switching to e-cigarettes made it less likely, not more likely, to stay off of cigarettes.” The study did not examine cases where people had switched to NRTs, because rarely are NRTs (including cigarillos, nicotine patches, nicotine gum and lozenges) used as a long-term replacement for cigarettes the way e-cigarettes are.
While the use of e-cigarettes has been a popular method for smokers to quit, they have become increasingly controversial in many countries due to their appeal to minors and their negative health effects. The CDC reported 68 deaths and 2,807 deaths caused by EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury).
A 2020 survey found over 2 million US teens reported using e-cigarettes, and almost all of them reported smoking e-cigarettes every day. Since a 2019 outbreak of EVALI, there has been some movement in Washington, DC to ban e-cigarettes. In December 2019 a federal law was passed to raise the buying age for e-cigarettes from 18 to 21 to limit youth access to the products. The FDA also banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. According to the survey, most teens who use e-cigarettes use flavored options. The move has caused some vape manufacturers to see a marked slowdown in sales.