More than half of the people who smoke e-cigarettes want to quit them, and more than a quarter of vapers have tried to stop, according to a recent Rutgers University study.
And while e-cigs have been marketed as a way to help kick the habit of smoking traditional cigarettes, vapers report resorting to the same quitting tools and strategies as conventional smokers.
The study, published last month in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, examined data on nearly 1,800 e-cig users from the federal Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study. An estimated 10 million U.S. adults smoke e-cigarettes.
“Most of the discussion about e-cigarettes has focused on the relative harm as compared to traditional cigarettes, the efficacy of e-cigarettes as a cessation device, and the alarming increase in their use in children. In addition to those issues, our data suggests that e-cigarette users do not want to use these devices forever,” said study co-author Marc Steinberg, an associate professor of psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
“Eventually, they want to stop using e-cigarettes the same way a traditional smoker wants to quit smoking cigarettes,” said Steinberg, director of Rutgers’ Tobacco Research and Intervention lab.
The study found that nearly two-thirds of those e-cig users intended to eventually quit vaping for good. More than 25 percent of them reported trying to quit in the past year – nearly 13 percent attempted to quit cold turkey, while almost 14 percent tried to stop gradually.
Of these vapers, about 55 percent said they also smoked conventional cigarettes. Nearly 51 percent were 18 to 34 years old, close to 57 percent were male, and 82 percent were white.
According to the study, the e-cig users turned to many of the same cessation aids as regular cigarette smokers; about a quarter sought support from family and friends, and 11 percent turned to counseling or self-help materials.
Among the e-cig users who used federal Food and Drug Administration-approved smoking cessation products, 74 percent who tried cessation aids like nicotine gum or patches endorsed them and nearly 67 percent of those who tried smoking cessation medications endorsed that quit method.
“While e-cigarettes may be associated with reduced harm as compared to combustible cigarettes, they also are potentially addicting and the e-cigarette aerosol still contains toxic substances,” said Rachel Rosen, a study author and graduate student in Rutgers’ psychiatry department. “As e-cigarette use continues to increase and as more e-cigarette users want to quit, it will be important to be ready to help those who may have difficulty stopping on their own.”
Critics of e-cigarettes say that while the products were initially billed as a somewhat safer way to smoke than traditional cigarettes — a claim that’s come into question — many manufacturers have marketed the e-products aggressively to youthful users.
There is also limited research on e-cigs’ effectiveness in helping users quit conventional cigarettes. A study published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine noted an 18 percent one-year abstinence rate among smokers who switched to e-cigs, compared to an approximately 10 percent one-year abstinence rate among conventional cigarette smokers who tried to quit with nicotine-replacement products.