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New study in UK points to vaping success as quit method

A preliminary report of a peer-reviewed study pointing to e-cig effectiveness for smoking cessation has appeared in the journal Addiction. This cross-sectional population survey of British households was conducted by cancer researchers at the University College London, and funded by the British Department of Health and grants from the pharmaceutical firm Pfizer, with no ties to any e-cig company.

It found electronic cigarettes to be more effective than either nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) or cold-turkey quitting. The full text of the article will be published as soon as copyediting is completed. (The citation of the preliminary abstract references doi: 10.1111/add.12623.)

Reporter John Tozzi, whose article on the abstract, published last Tuesday, appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek yesterday, cautions readers that the study "is not the kind of evidence" that would enable the industry to market e-cigs as quitting aids. "For that, regulators want to see rigorous, randomized control trials that compare e-cigs with placebo treatments," he reminds us. Nonetheless, he grants that the study is "good news" for the vaping products industry.

The study surveyed 5863 Brits who had smoked within the past 12 months, had tried to quit at least once during that period, and had used either e-cigs alone, NRTs alone, or no quitting aid. The outcome analyzed was self-reported abstinence until the survey date. Vaping products outperformed both by a substantial margin.

For purposes of result clarity, the study stayed away from quitters using prescription products, and those using more than one of the methods under study. According to Tozzi, some drawbacks of the study, in addition to its limited nature (no randomized control trials against placebos), include the lack of information about relapses. Tozzi also notes some of the potential dangers of vaping itself, including ignorance about long-term effects, the possibility of children drinking e-liquid, exploding batteries, and the like. "It's not safer than just breathing clean air," says Dr. Richard Hurt, formerly of the Mayo Clinic as quoted in Tozzi's article. Nonetheless, the study concludes that "e-cigarettes may substantially improve public health because of their widespread appeal and the huge health gains associated with stopping smoking.” This is surely good news not only for the vaping products industry, but for vapers themselves, who may find their quit method to be more widely accepted by the public, with attendant improvement in the regulatory atmosphere.

At some point, as this study is added to the recent population study by Farsalinos, and the recent French study showing 1% of the entire French population quitting through vaping, opponents will be obliged to stop saying there's no evidence. They won't do so, of course, but it will eventually become increasingly obvious that they're just fibbing.