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Massachusetts General Hospital Tobacco Research and Treatment Center Study Shows E-Cig Use Helps Smokers Quit

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Setting a precedent for longitudinal data in the United States regarding e-cigarettes as harm reduction tools to help smokers break the habit, a new study sheds positive light on the effectiveness of vaping for that purpose. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Tobacco Research and Treatment Center published their findings in the Nicotine and Tobacco Research journal, as reported by The Harvard Gazette.

The MGH team began their research through the first three years of Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) data analyzation of more than 8,000 U.S.-based adult smokers. Each subsequent year, PATH interviews participants to see how their tobacco use changes year over year. From there, the data pulled included:

  • how likely a smoker was to quit smoking and stay that way
  • comparisons of daily and non-daily e-cigarette users with analog smokers

End-of-study findings then included:

  • Smokers who used e-cigarettes every day, compared with non-e-cigarette users, were “more likely to quit combustible cigarettes within one year and to stay quit for at least another year.”
  • Smokers who used e-cigarettes “were no more likely to relapse back to smoking regular cigarettes than smokers not using e-cigarettes.”
  • Year one of the study showed 3.6% of smokers were also daily e-cigarette users; 18% were non-daily e-cigarette users; 78% did not vape.
  • Second- and third-year data shifted. Daily e-cigarette users “reported a higher rate of prolonged abstinence from cigarette smoking (11%) than nonusers (6%),” while smokers who used e-cigarettes, but not daily, “were not more likely than nonusers to demonstrate prolonged abstinence from combustible cigarettes.”

Lead Author of the study, Sara Kalkhoran, MGH physician and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told The Harvard Gazette, “This finding suggests that smokers who use e-cigarettes to quit smoking need to use them regularly — every day — for these products to be most helpful.”

Nancy Rigotti, senior author of the paper and director of the MGH Tobacco Research and Treatment Center and professor of medicine, suggested that smokers should still revert to FDA-approved quit smoking products as a first line of defense. However, she said that this study “suggests e-cigarettes may be helpful for some smokers who are not able to quit with these existing treatments. For a smoker, e-cigarettes are less harmful to their health than continuing to smoke cigarettes.”