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15-years of research shows vaping helps smokers quit, say scientists

Posted by Matt Rowland on

New research using data dating back almost 15-years concludes that smokers are 25 percent more likely to quit by switching to vaping or e-cigs.  The study shows also shows an average 3.4 percent long-term success rate.

Scientists from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) began by evaluating national statistics provided by five surveys conducted as far back as 2001 with sample sizes averaging around 180,000 respondents. They then conducted a more recent investigation using a sample group of 161, 054 current or recently reformed smokers from within the past 12-months. 

Why did the scientists care so much about smoking rates from 2001 as compared to today?  According to lead researcher Shu-Hong Zhu, professor at the Department of Medicine and Family Health, the rapid rise in popularity of vaping over the past five years simply tickled their curiosity.  

“We traced all the way back to 2001, and the surveys get done every three years on average—which means there are five surveys…For the first time, the succession rate when up.  So, I had a suspicion e-cigs might (be a contributing factor).”
- Shu-Hong Zhu via The Daily Dot

The data from these older studies was acquired from the Tobacco Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey published in 2001-2002, 2003, 2006-2007, and 2010-2011.  The scientists then compared the historical data to the statistics provided by their more current sample group of participants from 2014-2015.

Overview of the UCSD vaping study

  • 161,054 participates participated in the 2014-2015 sample group.
  • 22,548 were current smokers.
  • 2,136 were recently reformed smokers from within the past 15-months.
  • 38% of current smokers had tried vaping or e-cigs in the past.
  • 5% of current smokers were also current vapers to varying degrees.
  • 43% of reformed smokers had tried vaping or e-cigs in the past.
  • 19% of reformed smokers were also current vapers to varying degrees.
  • Current vapers (60%) were more likely to attempt to quit smoking permanently than non-vapers (40%).
  • Men were more likely to use e-cigs than women, and younger age groups were more likely than older.
  • All resulting conclusions have a 95% confidence level.

The statistics also show that the overall smoking cessation rates did not change very much until the 2014-2015 sample group.  However, the scientists warn that the previous control groups did not include vaping participants, which was still relatively unknown at the time, so the resulting conclusions have only a 95% confidence level. 

Lead author Shu-Hong Zhu also notes that another possible contributing factor for the rapid decline in smoking rates in 2014-2015 might be the increases in federal and state tobacco taxes over the past fifteen years.  However, the UCSD team evaluated comparative smoking cessation rates two years after each of the increases and determined them to have limited impacts on the statistical results.  The complete UCSD vaping study entitled, E-cigarette use and associated changes in population smoking cessation: evidence from US current population surveys Is readily available for review via BMJ Publishing


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