E-Cigarette Reviews and Rankings

Study Claiming E-Cigarettes Make It Harder to Quit Smoking Gets Blasted as Unscientific

A recent study co-authored by Dr. Sara Kalkhoran and Prof. Stanton Glanz that claimed electronic cigarettes not only are not helpful in helping people quit smoking, but actually make it 28% less likely to quit for those who use them, has recently been slammed as an “unscientific hatchet job” by other scientists and tobacco experts.

Vaporesso-Target-75-VTC-modRecently published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal, the study was not a medical one, but rather a systemic review and meta-analysis of 38 other e-cigarette studies linking electronic cigarettes and smoking cessation among smokers as young as 15. After analyzing a variety of data, including “study location, design, population, definition and prevalence of e-cigarette use, comparison group (if applicable), cigarette consumption, level of nicotine dependence, other confounders, definition of quitting smoking, and odds of quitting smoking”, researchers concluded that e-cigarette users are 28% less likely to quit smoking compared to smokers who never used the devices.

“The irony is that quitting smoking is one of the main reasons both adults and kids use e-cigarettes, but the overall effect is less, not more, quitting,”  co-author Stanton A. Glantz, Ph.D., professor of medicine and director of the Center for Tobacco Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a press release. “While there is no question that a puff on an e-cigarette is less dangerous than a puff on a conventional cigarette, the most dangerous thing about e-cigarettes is that they keep people smoking conventional cigarettes,” he added.

Based on the findings of this study, Dr. Sara Kalkhoran said that “E-cigarettes should not be recommended as effective smoking cessation aids until there is evidence that, as promoted and used, they assist smoking cessation.” And who can blame her, right? After all, these things apparently make it a lot harder to quit smoking, 28% much harder, to be exact.

But why are e-cigs making it harder for smokers to quit, when they should be doing the exact opposite? Although the study itself was simply aimed at finding whether e-cigarettes help people quit smoking or not, and not the reasoning behind these facts, during a recent interview for PBS Radio, Dr. Stanton Glanz provided two likely explanations. One has to do with the way e-cigs are marketed – as a way to enjoy nicotine in places where smoking is usually not allowed, like inside people’s homes or at the workplace. So by reintroducing inhaled nicotine in otherwise smoke-free environments is helping keep the smoking up, instead of pushing people to quit.

The second explanation has to do with the way e-cigs are sold. He explains that even conventional nicotine replacement therapies (nicotine gum, patches, etc.) tend to depress quitting when they are sold over the counter, instead of as a part of an organized smoking cessation program, where smokers are constantly monitored and counseled. So when you’re just going out and buying e-cigarettes, without any counseling, like most vapers are doing right now, you’re basically making it harder for yourself to quit smoking.

These findings are truly disappointing, especially since they come at a critical time for the future of electronic cigarettes and vaping in general. However, even before the study was published, scientists involved in e-cigarette research and tobacco control experts started issuing warnings regarding the methodology of the research that simply made its results invalid. The Daily Caller lists some of their most notable comments:

Professor Peter Hajek, Director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit, Queen Mary University of London, called the review “grossly misleading” and presented a series of problems with thee-cigs meta-analysis conducted by Glanz and Kalkhoran. “The studies that are presented as showing that vaping does not help people quit only recruited people who were currently smoking and asked them if they used e-cigarettes in the past,” he said. “This means that people who used e-cigarettes and stopped smoking were excluded. The same approach would show that proven stop-smoking medications do not help or even undermine quitting.”

Professor Ann McNeill, Professor of Tobacco Addiction, King’s College London, actually co-authored a couple of studies included in the review. She had this to say: “This review is not scientific. The information included about two studies that I co-authored is either inaccurate or misleading. In addition, the authors have not included all previous studies they could have done in their meta-analysis. I believe the findings should, therefore, be dismissed.”

Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling and Deputy Director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, also slammed the controversial research. “While its breath is to be commended, its conclusions (that e-cigarettes don’t work for smoking cessation) are at best tentative and at worst incorrect,” she said.  “The main reason for this is that attempting to directly compare the results of a body of literature that uses such a wide range of study designs and includes such variable (and often poorly defined) populations and outcomes are difficult, if not impossible. Some of the observational studies included in the review, in particular, suffer from a range of limitations that don’t allow us to reliably assess whether e-cigarettes help smokers quit.”

Rosana O’Connor, Director of Tobacco, Alcohol & Drugs at Public Health England contradicted the findings of Kalkhoran & Glanz, saying that “Evidence from practice in England shows that two out of three smokers who combined e-cigarettes with additional expert support from a local stop smoking service quit successfully and while dual use is a complex issue, many vapers report using an e-cigarette to cut down and ultimately quit. Smokers who have struggled to quit in the past could try vaping, and we encourage vapers to take that next step and stop smoking completely.”

There are others who have spoken out against what they consider flawed research, and you can read their opinions on Science Media Center, a platform with a very witty motto: “The media will DO science better when scientists DO the media better.”

Unfortunately, the media doesn’t really care about science, at least not when it comes to e-cigarettes. Glanz’s study has been covered by virtually every major news outlet on the internet and countless smaller ones, but few of them even mention the criticism it has attracted from so many scientists and tobacco control experts. All they care about is getting the word out that e-cigarettes don’t help smokers quit, but actually make it a lot harder to give up cigarettes. They’re doing a great job!

Interestingly, the last study to claim that e-cigarettes make it harder for smokers to quit also came from the University of California San Francisco, and it too was labeled as junk science by many in the scientific community.

I should also point out that Kalkhoran & Glanz’s review contradicts the findings of the Cochrane review from 2014, which concluded that electronic cigarettes can help people quit smoking or at least cut down on analogs.

One Comment/Review

  • Debra Chaisson says:

    At age 59, My Doctor asked me if I would consider to quit smoking. I had been smoking since I was age 12. I have tried several times to quit, I had promised myself years ago that if a doctor ever told me I need to quit, or that if I ever started with a cough that wouldn’t go away, that I would quit. January 3rd,2014, I smoked my last cigarette. I started vaping, I can honestly say to you,”I am a non-smoker” I never looked back, I feel better & I have never even wanted another cigarette. I have nightmares that I start smoking again, & I wake up terrified. In closing I can say, that my vaping has slowed down, & I am on a low nicotine juice now, & alot of times I buy No nicotine juice. Debra Chaisson.

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