Regular tobacco cigarettes contain 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic. While it is unclear exactly how many chemicals are in e-cigarettes, there’s almost no doubt that they expose users to fewer toxic chemicals than traditional cigarettes. This is why many traditional smokers have flocked to using e-cigarettes. Many of these smokers view the transition as the first step in the process to eventually quit smoking altogether.
Although promising in theory, new research suggests that individuals who use e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool are no more likely to be abstinent a year later than those who use alternative aids or nothing at all. These individuals are also more likely to remain dependent on nicotine.
About The Study
Using data from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study, the researchers compared long-term abstinence between matched US smokers who tried to quit with and without the use of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid. The PATH study collected data on 49,000 people across the US. This specific study focused on the 9,021 people who initially said they smoked daily, and within that cohort, it examined 2,770 people who also attempted to quit smoking. Around 24% of those who tried to quit used e-cigarettes as a cessation aid, while about 19% used other aids, such as clinically approved drugs and other nicotine replacement therapies, like patches, sprays, and lozenges. The remainder of the group did not use any smoking cessation aids.
The choice of what type of smoking cessation aid was used, if any, did not impact success rates. Only 10% of those who attempted to quit smoking were able to so for 12 or more months. Eighty-two percent of those who had attempted to quit were still smoking by the end of the study period.
When you look in the population, there’s no benefit to using e-cigarettes to quit, and there is a potential problem with keeping people [dependent] on nicotine.”
– Dr. John Pierce, Study Researcher
It is important to note that this study contradicts many studies that suggest that e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking. However, many of these studies find that people who end up quitting smoking continue to use e-cigarettes for more than a year. While e-cigarette use is better than traditional smoking, it is by no means safe. Also, the ease of using e-cigarettes often results in higher nicotine consumption.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “paying for tobacco use cessation treatment is the single most cost-effective health insurance benefit for adults that can be provided to employees." This is why employers need to not lose focus of the problem. Although smokers have been pushed out of sight by smoke-free laws, the costs of smoking remain staggering. With more employees working from home than ever before, initiatives such as smoke-free offices and facilities can no longer be effective.
Regardless of how large their smoking population is, all employers should offer smoking and tobacco cessation benefits to employees who are looking for resources to quit. Most health plans provide free resources, but they lack the key features of an effective program, such as support networks. Companies should invest in better solutions given the financial costs associated with smoking. This is why Wellable offers a smoking cessation program that only bills for employees who smoke and are looking to quit and that also provides a robust support network, including unlimited health coaching and an online support community of more than 800,000 current and former smokers.