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‘Consider e-cigarettes in tobacco control plans’, study recommends

The merits of e-cigarrettes need to be considered in tobacco control interventions, as smokers who use e-cigarettes are more likely to quit smoking successfully than those who don’t, a study has recommended. 

Researchers found that e-cigarette users were more likely to attempt to quit smoking and more likely to succeed than non-users when looking at data from one of the largest representative samples of e-cigarette users to date.

The study, led by a team from the University of California San Diego, looked at data from just over 161,000 respondents to a 2014-15 supplemental survey on tobacco use attached to a population survey issued by the US Census Bureau. The data included in the study came from individuals who were smoking 12 months before the interview.

They found that smokers who had used e-cigarettes within the past year were more likely to have attempted to quit than those who had not, with a 65% attempt rate compared with 38% in those who had never used them.

E-cigarette users were also more likely to successfully quit smoking, with 8% having quit for at least three months at the time of interview compared with just under 5% of non-users.

The team also found that the US population-wide smoking cessation rate increased significantly in the study period compared with previous years, with a 5.6% cessation rate in 2014-15 compared with 4.5% in 2010-11, corresponding to 350,000 additional smokers who quit.

They said in the paper: ‘This study, based on the largest representative sample of e-cigarette users to date, provides a strong case that e-cigarette use was associated with an increase in smoking cessation at the population level.

‘It is remarkable, considering that this is the kind of data pattern that has been predicted but not observed at the population level for cessation medication, such as nicotine replacement therapy and varenicline. This is the first statistically significant increase observed in population smoking cessation among US adults in the past 15 years. These findings need to be weighed carefully in regulatory policy making and in the planning of tobacco control interventions.’

Similar research in the UK, published last year, also found that successful quit attempts were correlated with increased e-cigarette use but opinion on their use is still divided, as some research suggests that using e-cigarettes could increase risk of heart damage.

The study findings come as the Government unveiled ambitious plans this month in the Department of Health’s Tobacco Control Plan to reduce smoking rates in England to 12% or less, a decrease of almost 7%, by 2022. 

BMJ 2017; available online 26 July


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