E-cigarettes can help smokers quit, but only if they discard tobacco in favor of vaping nearly every day, a new study suggests.
Former smokers are nearly three times more likely to abstain from cigarette smoking if they puff on an e-cigarette two out of every three days a month, according to the analysis of a federal survey on smoking.
"E-cigarettes are an effective way to get cigarette smokers to quit, but you really need to use those e-cigarettes," said lead researcher David Levy. "Using them a couple days a month isn't going to be anywhere near as effective as if you use them most, if not all, days in a month."
The odds of a smoker successfully quitting increases by 10 percent with each additional day of e-cigarette use, said Levy, a professor with Georgetown University's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Washington, D.C.
However, pulmonologist Dr. Louis De Palo said he's concerned e-cigarettes do too good of a job replacing traditional tobacco cigarettes.
"People don't get addicted to the other forms of nicotine replacement because they aren't fun," said De Palo. He's an associate professor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
"Gum doesn't taste very good. The nose inhaler burns a little bit. The patches are irritating. And none of them give you the psychological satisfaction of holding something in your hand and smoking," he explained.
"E-cigarettes are highly addictive, easy to use, and fun," De Palo continued. "This study doesn't address the strategy for eventually weaning people off e-cigarettes."
For this study, Levy and his colleagues reviewed data from more than 24,000 participants in the 2014/2015 Tobacco Use Supplement-Current Population Survey, a regular survey on smoking administered by the U.S. Census Bureau.