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Research & Commentary: Study Reports Health Benefits from E-cigarette Use

June 14, 2016

In June, the British Medical Journal published a study that examined the “effectiveness and safety of electronic cigarettes at 24 months.” The study aimed to measure the “sustained abstinence from tobacco cigarettes and/or e-cigarettes over 24 months.

tobaccoabstinencechart

In June, the British Medical Journal published a study that examined the “effectiveness and safety of electronic cigarettes at 24 months.” The study aimed to measure the “sustained abstinence from tobacco cigarettes and/or e-cigarettes over 24 months.” The study found a nearly 40 percent disparity between those smokers who used e-cigarettes to help quit smoking and those who tried to quit without e-cigarettes or other smoking cessation aids.

Of the 229 e-cigarette respondents in the survey, 61 percent reported remaining “abstinent from tobacco,” while only 23.1 percent of the 480 tobacco smokers reported abstinence. The report provides strong evidence in favor of the view e-cigarettes and vaporized nicotine products (VNPs) can be effective tobacco-harm-reduction products. According to the authors, “[The study,] to date, is the only study to directly compare smokers of tobacco cigarettes only with users of e-cigarettes only.”

The authors of the study concluded “e-cigarette use alone might support tobacco quitters remaining abstinent from smoking.” The study also points out dual usage – using traditional tobacco cigarettes as well as e-cigarettes – “does not improve the likelihood of quitting tobacco … but may be helpful to reduce tobacco consumption.”

Other studies have provided evidence to the value of e-cigarettes as a tool to help smokers quit using tobacco.  In 2015, Public Health England published a study that found e-cigarettes and VNPs are “95 percent less harmful than cigarettes and should be promoted as a tobacco-cessation method.”

The Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians published Nicotine without Smoke: Tobacco Harm Reduction in April 2016. The report found e-cigarettes helped to produce “a relatively high quit rate” for tobacco cigarette smokers, and it found, “The long-term health risks associated with smoking ... are unlikely to exceed 5% of those associated with smoked tobacco products.”

The report’s authors say the VNP products have not “attracted significant use among adult never-smokers” and that “promotion of the use of non-tobacco nicotine, including e-cigarettes … as a substitute for smoking … is therefore likely to generate significant health gains in the [United Kingdom].”

Despite this study and other similar studies showing the benefits of e-cigarettes, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently ordered e-cigarettes and VNPs to be classified and regulated as though they are tobacco products. The new ruling, which takes effect in August, requires any e-cigarette or VNP product that was introduced to the market after 2007 to apply for a “premarket tobacco application.”

The process is expected to be costly and could—as Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, says—limit health benefits by “the very need to have new products that are less harmful be held to a higher standard, than … the cigarette,” which Stier says “doesn’t make sense from a public health perspective.

FDA should reconsider its position to burden the e-cigarette industry with unnecessary and costly regulations. Instead, it should acknowledge the wealth of evidence showing the benefits of these products and find ways to promote them as an effective tobacco-harm-reduction strategy.

The following documents offer more research on e-cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction.

E-Cigarettes Are Making Tobacco Obsolete. So Why Ban Them? 
http://heartland.org/policy-documents/e-cigarettes-are-making-tobacco-obsolete-so-why-ban-them
Matt Ridley reports vaping helps people quit smoking more effectively than any other method, relying on several well-researched studies. With the success of vaping products, he asks, why are cities banning them? 

Vapor Products and Tax Policy
https://www.heartland.org/policy-documents/vapor-products-and-tax-policy
Scott Drenkard of the Tax Foundation examines vaping products and the numerous tax policies that affect the industry. Drenkard concludes vaping products “likely have much lower externalities than traditional cigarettes, and it follows the excise taxes on the products should be lower or nonexistent. Punitive taxes on vapor products could inadvertently close out options for cigarette users looking to quit.”

Research & Commentary: New CDC Report Finds Vaping Helps Smokers Quit
https://www.heartland.org/policy-documents/research-commentary-new-cdc-report-finds-vaping-helps-smokers-quit 
A new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found only 0.4 percent of the people who had never smoked tobacco in a CDC study group are current vapers, which the report defines as using a vaping device either every day or some days. The CDC report, the first of its kind, estimates e-cigarette use among U.S. adults using a nationally representative household survey. The report’s findings claim only 3.4 of adults who have never smoked have tried an e-cigarette; 12.6 percent of Americans have tried an e-cigarette; and fewer than 4 percent of the U.S. population are regular e-cigarette users.

Research & Commentary: New CDC Report Finds Vaping Helps Smokers Quit
https://www.heartland.org/policy-documents/research-commentary-new-cdc-report-finds-vaping-helps-smokers-quit
A new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found only 0.4 percent of the people who had never smoked tobacco in a CDC study group are current vapers, which the report defines as using a vaping device either every day or some days. The CDC report, the first of its kind, estimates e-cigarette use among U.S. adults using a nationally representative household survey. The report’s findings claim only 3.4 of adults who have never smoked have tried an e-cigarette; 12.6 percent of Americans have tried an e-cigarette; and fewer than 4 percent of the U.S. population are regular e-cigarette users.

E-Cigarettes Poised to Save Medicaid Billions
https://www.heartland.org/policy-documents/e-cigarettes-poised-save-medicaid-billions
In a new report from State Budget Solutions, J. Scott Moody finds e-cigarette use could create significant savings for state governments, especially in their Medicaid programs: “As shown in this study, the potential savings to Medicaid significantly exceeds [sic] the state revenue raised from the cigarette excise tax and tobacco settlement payments by 87%. As such, the rational policy decision is to adopt a non-interventionist stance toward the evolution and adoption of the e-cig until hard evidence proves otherwise.”

Research & Commentary: Electronic Cigarettes
http://heartland.org/policy-documents/research-commentary-electronic-cigarettes 
Heartland Institute Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines electronic cigarettes, tobacco harm reduction, and various proposals to regulate e-cigarette use. E-cigarettes have become one of the most popular nicotine replacement products and a key building block in tobacco harm reduction strategies.

Nicotine without smoke: Tobacco harm reduction
https://www.heartland.org/policy-documents/nicotine-without-smoke-tobacco-harm-reduction
This report aims to provide a fresh update on the use of harm reduction in tobacco smoking, in relation to all non-tobacco nicotine products but particularly e-cigarettes. It concludes that, for all the potential risks involved, harm reduction has huge potential to prevent death and disability from tobacco use, and to hasten our progress to a tobacco-free society. 

Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this subject, visit Budget & Tax News at https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/newsletters/budget-tax-news, The Heartland Institute’s website at http://heartland.org, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at www.policybot.org.

The Heartland Institute can send an expert to your state to testify or brief your caucus; host an event in your state; or send you further information on a topic. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance! If you have any questions or comments, contact John Nothdurft, Heartland’s director of government relations, at jnothdurft@heartland.org or 312/377-4000.

Author
Lindsey Stroud is a state government relations manager at The Heartland Institute.
lstroud@heartland.org