Daily users of ‘tank’-style e-cigarettes ‘more likely to quit tobacco’

In collaboration with the Press Association

Smokers who use e-cigarettes seemed to be most likely to have stopped smoking if they regularly use the newer generation ‘tank’-style devices, according to UK research.

And smokers who infrequently use disposable ‘cigalike’ models seemed to be less likely to have quit than those who don’t use e-cigarettes at all, the research also suggests. 

“Like the consistent use needed with nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT), only those who used tank-style e-cigarettes every day were more likely to have quit smoking tobacco a year on" - Nicola Smith, Cancer Research UK

The findings come from two studies conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London and University College London. 
 
Both studies based their analyses on a 2012 survey of over 4,000 UK smokers, around 1,600 of whom were then followed up a year later.
 
The first study, published in the journal Addiction, looked at overall e-cigarette use, and how it related to smokers’ likelihood of trying to quit.
 
It found that more than six in 10 (65 per cent) of daily e-cigarette users tried to quit within a year, compared with just over four in 10 (44 per cent) of non-users. 
 
And more than 14 in every 100 people (14 per cent) who used an e-cigarette daily had managed to reduce their cigarette consumption by more than half over a year. This was compared with just six in every 100 non-users (six per cent).
 
But overall, the researchers found that even daily e-cigarette users were not more likely to have quit over the course of the study. And lead author, Dr Leonie Brose from IoPPN, cautioned that further studies would be needed to test how useful these devices are in helping people quit.
 
“This study did not test how helpful they are as quitting aids because we looked at smokers who were using them for any reason, including just to cut down on their smoking or in situations when they cannot smoke,” she said. 
 
“But it is encouraging to see that even then, regular e-cigarette use was linked to reduced numbers of lethal cigarettes smoked, and increased attempts to quit smoking in the following year,” she added.
 
The second study, published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, looked at the type of device used, as well as how regularly people used them.
 
There are two main types of e-cigarettes:

  • ‘Cigalikes’ – these look like regular cigarettes and are disposable or use replaceable cartridges. 
  • ‘Tank’ models – these devices contain a tank of ‘e-liquid’, which can be refilled.

‘Cigalike’ devices appeared to be more popular among those questioned – with just over three quarters of people (75 per cent) using them. So results for ‘tank-style’ users are based on small numbers.
 
But when the researchers looked at how many people had quit, those using ‘tank’-style devices seemed to be much more likely to have quit than those using ‘cigalikes’.
 
Just under three in 10 (28 per cent) of those who used ‘tank’-style devices had quit smoking a year later, compared with just over one in 10 (11 per cent) among daily ‘cigalike’ users.
 
For non-daily tank users the number dropped to just under one in 10 (9 per cent). And for non-daily ‘cigalike’ users, five in every 100 people (5 per cent) quit smoking. 
 
In comparison, just over one in 10 (13 per cent) of those not using an e-cigarette had quit one year later.
 
Lead researcher, Dr Sara Hitchman from IoPPN, said their findings highlighted how this study could shape future research.
 
“Our research demonstrates the importance of distinguishing between different types of e-cigarettes and frequency of use when examining the association between e-cigarettes and quitting,” she said. 
 
“At this point we don’t know why people who use tank type e-cigarettes daily are more likely to have quit,” she added.

Nicola Smith, senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK, explained that more research is needed to clarify the role e-cigarettes might play in tobacco control.

“These studies boost our understanding of how e-cigarettes might help people stop smoking. Like the consistent use needed with nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT), only those who used tank-style e-cigarettes every day were more likely to have quit smoking tobacco a year on,” she said.

“The survey looked at all smokers using e-cigarettes, not just those using them in a determined attempt to quit - but it didn’t represent a cross section of the UK population. Questions remain about the long term safety of these products.
 
Cancer Research UK will fund more research on how e-cigarettes might support people to quit smoking tobacco – an addiction that kills up to two-thirds of all long-term users. The best possible way to improve your chances of stopping smoking for good is using the behavioural support and prescription medication from Stop Smoking Services,” she added.

References

  • Brose, L., et al. (2015). Is use of electronic cigarettes while smoking associated with smoking cessation attempts, cessation and reduced cigarette consumption? A survey with a 1-year follow-up. Addiction. DOI: 10.1111/add.12917
  • Hitchman, S., et al. (2015). Associations Between E-Cigarette Type, Frequency of Use, and Quitting Smoking: Findings From a Longitudinal Online Panel Survey in Great Britain. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. DOI: 10.1093/ntr/ntv078