ATLANTA–Users of e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) in the United States are no more likely to quit smoking cigarettes than people who don’t use such devices, according to a study by a group of tobacco researchers at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.
The researchers found “no evidence” that ENDS as they have been marketed and used in the U.S. are effective at helping smokers quit at a population level, despite anecdotal reports that some smokers have found them useful.
“Absent any meaningful changes, ENDS use among adult smokers is unlikely to be a sufficient solution to obtaining a meaningful increase in population quit rates,” the authors wrote in a newly released article in the journal PLOS ONE. “We observed no instance where ENDS users were more likely to quit (smoking cigarettes) than non-ENDS users.”
At the end of the one-year study, the researchers found 90 percent of “dual users” (people who used ENDS and traditional cigarettes at the start of the study) were still smoking. Among the dual users, nearly 54 percent were smoking cigarettes as well as using ENDS after a year, and more than 37 percent were still smoking cigarettes but had stopped using ENDS.
The researchers also found that users of e-cigarettes and related products were more likely to try to quit smoking, but those attempts did not translate into greater success. Even study participants who said they were using ENDS to help them stop smoking (a majority of ENDS users) were less likely to manage to quit than those who did not use the devices.
Results of the study are published in an article titled “Are Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Helping Cigarette Smokers Quit? Evidence from a Prospective Cohort Study of U.S. Adult Smokers, 2015-2016.” Dr. Scott Weaver, assistant professor of epidemiology & biostatistics, is the lead author.”
“Many smokers are using ENDS in their smoking quit attempts, but these devices may not be providing a sufficiently satisfying nicotine delivery and overall user experience to completely supplant their smoking,” Weaver said. “Coordinated regulation aimed at improving the appeal and satisfaction of ENDS available to smokers, while reducing the nicotine levels in combustible tobacco products to non-addictive levels may be necessary for ENDS to have a meaningful role in reducing the staggering public health burden of smoking.”
The study analyzed the responses of 858 smokers who participated in an initial survey in late 2015 and a follow-up a year later as part of a national, online panel conducted by marketing research institute GfK.
The authors recommend additional research to monitor the rapidly changing ENDS market and usage patterns.
The study’s co-authors are Dr. Jidong Huang, associate professor of health management & policy; Dr. Terry Pechacek, professor of health management & policy; John Wesley Heath, data administrator; Dr. David Ashley, professor of environmental health; and Dean Michael Eriksen, all of the School of Public Health at Georgia State.
Research reported in this publication was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Food and Drug Administration, Center for Tobacco Products. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH or the Food and Drug Administration.
Epidemiology & Biostatistics
Identifying primarily as a prevention scientist and quantitative methodologist, Dr. Weaver has over a decade of experience conducting research on minority and immigrant health and health disparities; substance use and risky youth behaviors; social and cultural determinants of health; systems interventions for promoting positive youth and family outcomes; and global urban health.