In the form of mass-marketed consumer products, e-cigarettes do not help smokers quit cigarettes, according to a new study published Dec. 22, 2020, in the American Journal of Public Health by researchers from the University of California San Francisco.
The authors examined both observational studies, which question people “in the wild” without specific guidance to quit, and clinical trials, in which smokers trying to quit were given free cigarettes under medical supervision.
While e-cigarettes led to more quitting than some other therapies in clinical trial settings, the authors noted no such effect in observational studies.
“It’s important to recognize that in clinical trials, when certain e-cigarette devices are treated more like medicine, there may actually be an effect on quitting smoking,” said study leader Richard Wang.
“But that needs to be balanced against the risks of using these devices. Also, only seven e-cigarette devices were studied in the clinical trials. Whether the effect observed with these seven devices is the same or different than that of the thousands of different e-cigarette products available for sale is unknown.”
The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act charges the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with allowing e-cigarettes on the market only when manufacturers can prove their tobacco-based products are “appropriate for the protection of public health.” The FDA is currently evaluating thousands of applications to sell e-cigarettes.
“If e-cigarette consumer product use is not associated with more smoking cessation, there is no population-level health benefit for allowing them to be marketed to adults who smoke, regardless of the relative harm of e-cigarettes compared with conventional cigarettes,” said Wang.
“Moreover, to the extent that people who smoke simply add e-cigarettes to their cigarette smoking—becoming so-called dual users—their risk of heart disease, lung disease, and cancer could increase compared with smoking alone.”