The University of Louisville paper found that quitting cold turkey was the most common single strategy used by everyday, occasional and former smokers. Next up was support from family and friends.
The study was published Nov. 17 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The research team was led by Brad Rodu, a professor of medicine at Louisville and an anti-smoking advocate.
The study was on data available in the 2013-14 federal Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health study, a project of the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.
“Federal officials have repeatedly claimed that there is no population evidence that e-cigarettes are helping smokers quit,” Rodu said.
Meanwhile, several studies, including one by the Royal College of Physicians, have claimed e-cigs and vaporizers are up to 95 percent less harmful than traditional cigarettes.
“Electronic cigarettes were the only aid producing a higher odds of (becoming) a former smoker than cold turkey,” according to the Louisville researchers.
The study evaluated 11,402 current and 4,919 former smokers. Of those individuals, 4,541 had tried to quit smoking in the previous 12 months before the study, with 839 being successful, or 18.5 percent.
For current and former smokers who used one or no quit methods, 1,522 current everyday and occasional smokers went cold turkey with 275 successfully quitting.
E-cigs were used by 459 current everyday and occasional smokers, including 128 who were able to quit.
Nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) patches, gums and other products were used by 235 current everyday and occasional smokers, including by 42 who were able to quit.
Prescription drugs, such as Chantix, Wellbutrin, Zyban and their generic equivalents, were used by 74 current everyday and occasional smokers, including by 16 who were able to quit.
Researchers said they extrapolated the data to determine that e-cigarettes were used as a single quit method by 2.2 million smokers in 2013–2014, NRT by 1.47 million, prescription drugs by 418,000 and smokeless tobacco by 124,000.
Comparison of population estimates for e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, NRT and prescription drugs “are informative,” Rodu said.
“The first two are smoke-free tobacco products that are considered unacceptable as cigarette substitutes by government agencies and most American health authorities, while the latter two are universally promoted as safe and effective by the same.”
Researchers viewed e-cigs “as both a counter to the over-medicalization of smoking cessation, and as a necessary supplement for the persistent inadequacy of unassisted cessation.”
The study was released about four months after FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb called in July for a sweeping regulatory “road map” on tobacco and nicotine products.
That included easing some regulations for product innovations, and extending the application deadline for FDA regulatory review for new products, such as e-cigs and vaporizers, from late 2018 to as far out as August 2022.
In August, researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the Rutgers School of Public Health determined that 52 percent of daily e-cig users in a study had quit smoking in the past five years, compared with just 28 percent of adults who had never tried e-cigs.
Researchers said it was one of the first studies “to reveal the patterns of cessation prevalence among e-cigarette users at a national level.”
In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a 26-month study of 15,943 adult cigarette smokers. The goal was determining what may be the most effective ways of quitting smoking among 10 common methods.
When it came to a potential smoking-cessation device, substituting some cigarettes with e-cigs (35.3 percent) was used by a greater percentage of smokers than the nicotine patch or gum (25.4 percent) or other cessation aids approved by the FDA, the CDC said.
“I am sure there are people so committed to a quit-or-die approach that no amount or quality of research will make a difference,” said David Sweanor, an adjunct law professor at the University of Ottawa and the author of several e-cig studies.
“The real test is with consumers themselves. People can only make as good a decision as the information available to them allows, and as the information and available options get better, public health revolutions occur.”