According to researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center, there is finally an increase in the smoking cessation rate.
Aruni Bhatnagar, director of the American Heart Association's Tobacco Research and Addiction Center said: "We just don't know if moving to e-cigarettes is good enough to reduce the harm".
The findings were published in the journal BMJ.
The study showed that the yearly rate of individuals who quit smoking has been around 4.5% for years.
Published this week in the British Medical Journal, the study titled 'E-cigarette use and associated changes in population smoking cessation: evidence from United States current population surveys' examined more than 160,000 respondents of different smoking statuses (never smoked through to heavy smokers), including 2136 recent quitters, from five different population studies. Overall, the number of people who quit smoking increased by 1.1 percentage points in 2015 from 2011.
Reviewing survey responses from almost 25,000 current and former smokers in 2014-2015, Zhu and his colleagues found that "vapers" were more likely than nonusers to make a quit attempt (65 percent versus 40 percent). This finally was reflected in the increasing numbers of quitters. Smoking cessation rates were determined from participants who reported smoking cigarettes in the past year (n = 23,270).
He added that vaping devices should not be strictly regulated: 'That way, smokers can get what they want without killing themselves'. This was comparable to 40% of the traditional smokers who had attempted to quit smoking.
"It was the e-cigarette users who quit at a clearly higher rate (8.2%) that brought the overall population cessation rate to a higher level", Professor Zhu-Hong Zhu wrote. Over the years the quitting rate remained same for traditional smokers while the rates of quitting among e-cigarettes rose significantly Zhu noted. This thought however has been refuted earlier in some studies.
Professor Bullen notes that while the research did not include a consideration of safety, there is a growing body of evidence that using e-cigarettes is far less harmful than continuing to smoke tobacco. This could help prevent them from lapsing back into their smoking habit. As vaping becomes more popular, there's been a lot of debate over the role of e-cigs. The study did not look at the long term effects of smoking e-cigarettes though. Also the study did not explore other factors that could be concomitantly associated with quitting rates such as use of other medications to quit smoking or the type of e-cigarettes used etc. They can also deliver other drugs such as marijuana.
A report in 2016 called the U.S. Surgeon General's report looked at the use of e-cigarettes among the youth and was the first of its kind. It warned that this could pave the way for adolescents for life time of smoking.
Peter Hajek, director of the health and lifestyle research unit at Queen Mary University in London, who wasn't part of the study commented on this finding: "It's absolutely clear that e-cigarettes help smokers replace cigarettes".
"In light of this evidence, policymakers in countries contemplating a more restrictive approach to the regulation of e-cigarettes should pause to consider if pursuing such a course of action is the right thing to do for population health", he said. Newer ones are available with a variety of options including tank systems and cartomizers. This does not contain tar, or other chemicals usually found in cigarettes.