A common complaint by critics is that electronic cigarettes are attracting non-smokers to a life-long addiction to nicotine. Others claim that smokers are only intensifying their habit by using both tobacco and e-cigs, suggesting that they’re not an effective tool for helping smokers quit. Although there’s been no evidence to support either of these claims, and research proves that e-cigarette users are overwhelmingly former smokers, new data from the Smoking Toolkit Study, an ongoing survey that’s been evaluating e-cigarette trends in England since 2011, provides further evidence that these concerns are completely unfounded.
Non-Smokers Rarely Start Vaping
Ongoing since 2006, the Smoking Toolkit Study takes 1,800 monthly household surveys, with approximately 450 smokers in each sample. It’s goal is to evaluate smokers and their attempts to quit and specifically began collecting data on electronic cigarettes in 2011. Since then, it’s tracked the rise of e-cigarette technology and the subsequent drop in the use of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as the patch and nicotine gum. It supports what many of us have been saying all along, that non-smokers very rarely pick up vaping or start using electronic cigarettes.
The results (based on a sample of 2,633) show that only about 0.3 percent of non-smokers (less than 1 in 300) use nicotine in the form of e-cigarettes. For long-term former smokers who previously quit, only 1.8 percent use electronic cigarettes, in comparison to 2.9 percent who use NRT. This data clearly shows that electronic cigarettes ARE NOT attracting non or former smokers. Although some non-smoker use is to be expected (afterall, every nicotine user starts somewhere), it’s clear that electronic cigarettes are not tempting them to pick up a new, life-long habit.
The Effect of E-Cigarettes on Smokers
Another issue addressed in the research is whether or not electronic cigarettes are just promoting nicotine addiction in smokers, and thereby reducing their motivation to quit. The survey found that out of 723 vapers, the “dual users” of both e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes were vaping every day. It doesn’t disclose the amount of smoking or vaping each user participated in, but it’s safe to assume (based upon other research) that they’re smoking less, and thereby reducing the exposure to harmful toxins.
In regards to their motivation to quit, the average score from a sample of 12,094 smokers has increased since e-cigs were first introduced, although only marginally. In other words, electronic cigarettes DO NOT undermine smokers motivation to quit. The percentage of smokers who have attempted to quit has remained relatively consistent since 2011, so there is no reduction in quitting attempts associated with the increasing use of e-cigarettes.
* Despite critics claims, studies suggest that e-cigs are an effective tool for smoking cessation.
One Piece of Bad News…
The research is generally positive, but one piece of data is slightly troubling – the growing interest in electronic cigarettes seems to be stalling. The survey shows a decreasing number of former smokers using e-cigarettes (after a steady rise since 2012) and it also shows stagnation among current smokers and use in respondents’ most recent attempts to quit. Although electronic cigarettes are still considered the most popular quit smoking aid by the survey, and NRT use continues to drop each year, there seems to be waning interest in e-cigarettes in the most recent results.
The Smoking Toolkit Study clearly shows that electronic cigarettes are not attracting non or former smokers, and there’s no indication that they have any negative affect on smokers’ motivation to quit. Could the stall in interest be due to the heavy scrutiny by the media and lawmakers? Hopefully it’s just a temporary plateau, because electronic cigarettes are sure to save millions of lives!