Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Insights From E-cigarette Users

When e-cigarette enthusiasts held a Vapefest in Philadelphia in March, Jonathan Foulds, a tobacco researcher at the Penn State University College of Medicine in Hershey, collected information from 104 attendees, using a 55-question survey. Dr. Foulds is the lead author on the resulting manuscript, published by the International Journal of Clinical Practice (abstract here).

About three quarters of the users were men, with an average age of 34 years; almost 80% had not used a traditional tobacco product in the past 30 days. The average duration of smoking was 16 years, and they had smoked an average of 25 cigarettes per day. The average number of quit attempts was nine. Nearly two thirds of e-cigarette users had unsuccessfully tried FDA-approved smoking cessation medications, and three quarters had tried to quit “cold turkey.” Over half had used e-cigarettes for over one year. Most participants planned to continue using e-cigarettes for at least another year; they reported that the average weekly cost was about $13.

The event attendees were e-cigarette enthusiasts, so it is not surprising that few of them used major brands that are widely available in convenience stores (such as NJOY and Smoking Everywhere). These brands have rechargeable batteries and replaceable cartridges. Instead, there was a preference for brands that have larger batteries with an extended life expectancy (eGo, Joye and Riva); the most experienced users preferred even more exotic hardware (Omega, Silver Bullet, Helix).

The findings are informative but not necessarily representative of e-cigarette users generally. However, it is likely that Philly Vapefest participants were inveterate smokers who, by switching to a form of smoke-free tobacco, substantially reduced their risk of contracting a smoking-related illness. Foulds and colleagues acknowledge that “the health risks from smoking are large and are known with certainty. Comparatively, the health risks from e-cig use are likely much smaller (if any) and temporarily switching to e-cigs will likely yield a large health benefit.” However, they inexplicably conclude that “current smokers who are interested in quitting smoking should be strongly directed towards evidence-based treatments (counseling, and approved medicines like nicotine replacement, bupropion or varenicline), rather than to e-cigs.”

Foulds and colleagues write that “we do not know enough about e-cigs to recommend them to patients.” Still, they must know that the “evidence” for evidence-based treatments is not compelling. Nicotine medicines have a 93% failure rate (here), and bupropion and varenicline are fraught with potentially serious side effects (here).

Many health professionals wrongly believe that smoking is an illness requiring treatment. In fact, smoking is a lifestyle choice – albeit an addictive and risky one – for which people need satisfying and safer substitutes. This is the core philosophy of tobacco harm reduction, and of this blog.

3 comments:

Vocal EK said...

Perhaps we should demand that the government produce some evidence that continuing to smoke is safer.

I have to wonder if Foulds et al was not forced, under threat of non-publication, to fabricate that advice in the conclusion. It makes no sense for a psychologist to recommend behavior that meets the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.

SafeCig said...

Wonderful article i look forward to more. I enjoyed learning a bit about the Vape' fest and your insight!

Jeff said...

The government is not interested in curtailing a revenue stream, that's why we'll never see this study or others like it being quoted by FDA.

Love the information here. Good job!