The pitch with vaping devices has always been that they're effective stopgap alternatives to people heading toward a nicotine free life. In other words, vaping is largely believed to help someone quit smoking entirely.
A number of studies have shown that such claims are false, however — or at least misleading. This new one, published June 9 in the PLOS One journal, adds to the growing list of research devoted to debunking the myth of vaping devices as smoking cessation aids.
In their study, Georgia State University researchers discovered that U.S. adult smokers who didn't use vaping devices were actually more than twice as likely to quit as those who did. More shockingly, over 90 percent of smokers who vaped at the beginning of the study were still smoking a year later. More than half of these smokers were also still vaping.
Do Vaping Devices Really Help People Quit Smoking?
Scott Weaver, an assistant professor epidemiology and biostatistics at Georgia State University and lead author of the study, thinks vaping products have not fulfilled its promise of helping people quit smoking.
"We need to look at changes to their design, marketing or regulation that could help them be more effective as smoking cessation tools," says Weaver, as The Wall Street Journal reports.
Despite the discouraging results, there lies a silver lining in the study: the number of dual smokers who quit smoking — those who use both vaping devices and traditional cigarettes — were higher than the overall quit rate for U.S. smokers.
The Many Studies On Vaping
Weaver and his team's study adds to the growing pool of evidence that shows vaping might not be as effective for people who want to quit smoking as once thought. As such, it makes the dialogue on vaping devices even more conflicting — some previous papers have shown that they help, while a great number of others found that they actually don't. Thus far, firm evidence that vaping can help one quit smoking is limited at best, and no reputable institution has come out and expressed their support for vaping in the context of smoking cessation.
Still, the number of U.S smokers has dipped significantly in recent years. In 2009, the smoker rate was 20.6 percent; in 2017, it went down to just 13.9 percent. Vaping devices aren't solely responsible for this change, though. Cigarette taxes and anti-smoking campaigns likely played huge factors in that downturn.
"Certainly the possibility is that e-cigarettes are part of that," says Nancy Rigotti, director of Massachusetts General Hospital's Tobacco Research and Treatment Center, who was not part of the study.
But ultimately, the researchers said they found "no evidence" that vaping devices in the United States in 2015 to 2016 "helped adult smokers quit at rates higher than smokers who did not use these products."