TIME Smoking

Study: E-Cigarettes Do Not Help People Quit Smoking

Public health experts continue to debate whether e-cigarettes are a better option than smoking tobacco, or just an alternative way for smokers to inhale nicotine

A new, but relatively small, study suggests that e-cigarettes do not help smokers quit or reduce their use of conventional cigarettes.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine looked at self-reports from 949 smokers–88 who used e-cigarettes at the start of the study–and sought to determine whether e-cigarette use was linked to successfully quitting regular cigarettes, or at least lessening consumption at the end of a year.

The researchers found that this was not the case, and despite their small study size and time period, they concluded that their data adds to the current body of evidence that e-cigarettes do not help people quit smoking. “Regulations should prohibit advertising claiming or suggesting that e-cigarettes are effective smoking cessation devices until claims are supported by scientific evidence,” the study authors write.

Whether e-cigarettes are a better option than tobacco cigarettes, or just an alternative way for smokers to inhale nicotine, is a question public health experts continue to debate. Since e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, some argue they are the lesser of two evils, and that encouraging people to use nicotine products on the less dangerous side of the spectrum is ultimately better for them, and could even help them wean them off actual cigarettes. The problem is that e-cigarettes have not been around long enough for accurate research on their perceived dangers or benefits.

The study is not the first though to poke holes in the theory that e-cigarettes steer people away from standard cigarettes. Earlier this month, another study found that adolescents who use cigarettes are more likely to smoke other tobacco products and cigarettes. The study couldn’t confirm whether smoking e-cigarettes made teens more likely to smoke in general, but it showed it wasn’t a deterrent.

In a corressponding editorial, Dr. Mitchell Katz, deputy editor of JAMA Internal Medicine wrote: “Unfortunately, the evidence on whether e-cigarettes help smokers to quit is contradictory and inconclusive. [The researchers] increase the weight of evidence indicating that e-cigarettes are not associated with higher rates of smoking cessation.”

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