Posted on October 19 2016
Whether you love e-cigarettes and want to see them promoted as smoking cessation devices or you hate e-cigarettes and want to see the U.S. Food & Drug Administration ban them as soon as possible, you can probably agree with one thing: There needs to be more testing and research done on vaping products in the near future.
One of the biggest issues that the vaping community has encountered thus far is that there is simply not enough information available on the long-term effects of vaping just yet. As a result, there’s a stigma that exists when it comes to e-cigarettes and e-juices, and that stigma will likely continue to affect vapers until more facts and evidence about the benefits and risks associated with vaping are discovered.
Fortunately, there are plenty of people working tirelessly right now to try and find out as much as possible about vaping. Specifically, there are some schools and laboratories researching the long-term effects of vaping and trying to figure out how vaping could potentially help people who are trying to quit smoking regular cigarettes.
Recently, the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California in San Diego conducted a study of more than 2,000 U.S. smokers to try and find out how people have used and are using e-cigarettes and what role they have played in quit attempts made by smokers.
It’s important to note that researchers encountered some “limitations” during the study—participants were found by phone and were often unable to provide their complete smoking history for researchers—but what they uncovered is still interesting, to say the least. And it should help lay a foundation for future studies on e-cigarettes and smoking.
How the Study Was Conducted
In order to carry out the study, Dr. Shu-Hong Zhu and the University of California in San Diego got 2,028 U.S. smokers to agree to take part in it. The smokers were randomly recruited by phone and had various life experiences with smoking and tobacco.
Dr. Zhu and his team identified the smokers who took part in the study as “those who had smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and smoked every day or some days at the time of the survey.”
They also identified e-cigarettes users as “those who used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days before the survey.” They surveyed the participants over a 2-year period.
While speaking with the participants in the study, Dr. Zhu and his team asked them about their smoking habits as well as their e-cigarettes habits and separated them into groups of long-term e-cigarette users who had been using cigarettes over the course of the entire 2-year period, short-term users who had only used e-cigarettes towards the beginning or end of the survey period, and non-users who hadn’t used e-cigarettes at all over the life of the study.
They also asked all of the participants how often they had used smoking cessation aids like nicotine patches, gums, and sprays during the study. That last point did complicate things a bit for the researchers, because it threw some doubt into the equation with regards to the role e-cigarettes played when people attempted to quit smoking, but it’s obviously an important piece of the puzzle so they could not leave it out.
By separating people into the three groups listed above, it allowed Dr. Zhu and his team to take a closer look at how the long-term use of e-cigarettes affected people who attempted to quit smoking. It also allowed them the opportunity to see how people reacted to both long and short-term use of e-cigarettes.
What Researchers Learned From the Study
After conducting the study, Dr. Zhu and his team were able to come to a handful of conclusions based on the data that they collected from participants. The study suggested that about 85 percent of smokers utilized e-cigarettes during their last quit attempts, which seems to show that many people are willing to use vaping products when trying to quit regular cigarettes.
It also suggested that the smoking cessation rate is higher—about 42 percent—amongst those who use e-cigarettes on a long-term basis than for those who rely on other types of smoking cessation aids. There appeared to be evidence that e-cigarettes could assist people who wanted to quit smoking, and the study found that many people who used e-cigarettes long term tried to quit more often.
Throughout the study, Dr. Zhu and his team asked people about more than just using e-cigarettes. They also inquired about peoples’ general feelings for e-cigarettes. For instance, they found that about 96 percent of participants believed e-cigarettes to be less harmful than regular cigarettes.
They also found that about 32 percent of short-term e-cigarette users were still using e-cigarettes two years later. Data like this can be processed and used at a later date for additional research.
Why the Study Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg
While the results of the University of California in San Diego are encouraging for those in the vaping community, it’s entirely too soon to draw any definitive conclusions from them. It’s important for people to realize that the study does not indicate that e-cigarettes are going to be promoted for smoking cessation here in the U.S. at this time.
But what it does indicate is that other schools and laboratories are now going to be able to take all of the information that Dr. Zhu and his team found and build on it. And the study that was done at the University of California in San Diego could very well end up being a pivotal one if the findings from it are explored further.
The key now will be for other schools and laboratories to take the baton from Dr. Zhu and his team and run with it. It will likely take years of research to find out all there is to know about e-cigarettes and other vaping products, but it’s research that is well worth doing.
It could help to save lives in the future and reveal the truth about e-cigarettes. So let’s hope that more studies like this one are done and that they yield the same kinds of encouraging results for those who do them.