A new study offers more evidence that switching to vaping is a positive health choice for smokers. In addition to being less toxic and less harmful overall than smoking combustible tobacco cigarettes, vaping liquid nicotine may be less addictive than smoking, according to analysis of data at Penn State College of Medicine.
Many experts agree that vaping, the use of an e-cigarette or other vaporizing device to heat liquid nicotine and inhale the vapor that is produced, is much less harmful than smoking. There is also much evidence that smokers have been able to quit smoking with the help of e-cigarettes, and that vaping is fast becoming the most popular method chosen by smokers to help them quit. There is controversy about e-cigarettes and vaping, and while many opponents are guilty of ignoring or misinterpreting scientific evidence, even ardent vaping supporters agree that no one knows if vaping is 100 percent safe.
The ongoing Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study is looking at tobacco use among over 30,000 people, young people as well as adults. E-cigarette usage is included in the study. When the former surgeon general denounced e-cigarettes in 2016, with his statements coming largely from faulty interpretation of a study on teens and vaping, he said that more research needs to be done. E-cigarettes as a possible path to tobacco smoking is one of the loudest alarms being sounded by vaping opponents, though the study on teens and smoking actually showed that very few vaping teens later go on to smoke.
Penn State College of Medicine analyzed data from the PATH study to see if e-cigarette users are getting addicted to e-cigarettes in the same way that smokers get addicted to tobacco cigarettes. The researchers chose over 3000 people from the PATH survey respondents. The participants were chosen based on their daily use of either e-cigarettes or cigarettes. The researchers considered all of the participants to be dependent on the product they used; however, they found evidence of a much stronger dependence on cigarettes among the smokers than on e-cigarettes among the vapers. The vaping “addicts” were found to be less in need of e-cigarettes during the day, and generally waited longer after waking up in the morning before using an e-cigarette. Compared to smokers, the vapers had an easier time going without using their product where it was restricted and did not have as strong a feeling that they are addicted.
The study’s author concluded that e-cigarettes are addictive but not at the same level as smoking tobacco cigarettes is.
More analysis is planned to study dual use of both e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes. The researchers believe that most of the participants they examined are dual users. Dual use is something that vaping opponents say proves that vaping doesn’t work. But harm reduction is achieved by reducing intake of smoke and harmful chemicals. Many smokers who switch to vaping use a “step-down” method beginning with higher nicotine e-liquid and then gradually reducing the amount of nicotine used. This is similar to the treatment plans that involve the use of nicotine patches or other pharmaceutical nicotine replacement therapy products. But other smokers may cut their cigarette usage by substituting e-cigarettes for a number of cigarettes they would normally smoke in a day, while still smoking cigarettes as well. While opponents of vaping will jump at any chance to say that vaping doesn’t work, most health experts agree that any use of an e-cigarette instead of a tobacco cigarette reduces harm.
Studies like PATH could inform future regulations on e-cigarettes, if government is willing to listen to the actual scientific results. Thus far we have seen overzealous regulations come about based on ignorance and bias.