Smokers Willing to Try E-Cigarettes More Successful at Smoking Less, Study Says

Allison Inserro

A small pilot study from the Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina found that smokers who are willing to use e-cigarettes tend to smoke less and have increased quit attempts.

A total of 68 smokers were evaluated with 46 randomized to use e-cigarettes and 22 randomized to a control group. Those in the e-cigarette group were given a device for 3 weeks with either high (24 mg) or low (16 mg) doses of nicotine. Everyone was followed up over a period of 4 months.

Results showed that when smokers were given e-cigarettes without any accompanying instructions or requirements for use, uptake was strong.  Many participants went on to buy their own e-cigarettes. This suggests that e-cigarettes might give smokers an alternative to combustible cigarettes, researchers wrote.

“The results are consistent with trials done outside the US,” Matthew Carpenter, PhD, lead author and a tobacco control and addiction expert at the cancer center at the Medical University of South Carolina, said in a statement. “Many people rated the e-cigarettes similar to their usual product, which further suggests that these products might promote switching. Anything that gets smokers off combustible cigarettes is a good thing.”

All e-cigarette users tried the product at least once, with 48% of 24 mg and 30% of 16 mg using their assigned product for the entire 3 weeks. Within the 24 mg group, 57% made an independent purchase, versus 28% of 16 mg, and 14% of control participants (P = 0.01).

Those who used e-cigarettes smoked less and were more likely to quit smoking, as compared to those in the control group. Smokers in both e-cigarette groups significantly reduced their smoking, whereas control participants did not (P = 0.03).

This study was different from other studies looking at e-cigarettes in that it showed how smokers would behave naturally with the product without additional guidance, and it was randomized. Most other studies compare self-selected users versus nonusers and include instruction on how to use the product.

The study, funded by the NIH, was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention in November.

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