Contrary to Marketing Claims, E-Cigarettes Do Not Aid in Smoking Cessation

Internal Medicine World Report, April 2014,

The use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) is not associated with greater rates of smoking cessation or reduced cigarette consumption after 1 year.

The use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) is not associated with greater rates of smoking cessation or reduced cigarette consumption after 1 year, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

For the study, a team of researchers analyzed self-reported data from 949 smokers, although only 88 of them — most of whom were women, younger adults, and individuals with less education — had used e-cigarettes at baseline. The investigators found e-cigarette usage at baseline was unrelated to cessation 1 year later or a change in cigarette consumption; however, the small population of users at baseline may have impacted the authors’ ability to link e-cigarettes to quitting.

“Nonetheless, our data add to the current evidence that e-cigarettes may not increase rates of smoking cessation,” Rachel A. Grana, PhD, MPH, and colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco, wrote. “Regulations should prohibit advertising claiming or suggesting that e-cigarettes are effective smoking cessation devices until claims are supported by scientific evidence.”

Grana and associates previously published “Smoking Revolution: A Content Analysis of Electronic Cigarette Retail Websites” in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, which found e-cigarettes were being marked with false health claims. Nearly all (95%) of the websites made explicit or implicit health-related claims, 64% had a smoking cessation-related claims, 22% featured doctors, and 76% claimed their product does not produce secondhand smoke.

The authors argued the claims were “unsupported by current scientific evidence” and “implied and overt health claims, the presence of doctors on websites, celebrity endorsements, and the use of characterizing flavors should be prohibited.”

Mitchell H. Katz, MD, a deputy editor of JAMA Internal Medicine, wrote an editorial supporting the research efforts of the e-cigarette study.

“Unfortunately, the evidence on whether e-cigarettes help smokers to quit is contradictory and inconclusive,” he wrote. “Grana and colleagues increase the weight of evidence, indicating that e-cigarettes are not associated with higher rates of smoking cessation.”

Katz also expressed concern about the lack of regulation surrounding e-cigarettes. First, he cited the restrictions of the sale of tobacco to minors, which are currently nonexistent for e-cigarettes. Then, he noted the absence of limitations on where people can smoke e-cigarettes, which he believes could threaten smoking bans that had previously been implemented. Lastly, he cited the unknown variables of e-cigarettes, such as unforeseen side effects that have yet to be discovered.

In light of those apprehensions, Katz recommended the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin regulating e-cigarettes, especially the marketing of unsubstantiated claims.