By Guy Bentley
E-cigarettes are the principle cause of one of the biggest drops in smoking ever recorded, according to a new survey.
The study, published in the journal Addiction, shows more than six million Europeans have quit smoking and nine million have cut back using e-cigarettes.
Scientists from Greece and France came to the conclusion using data from the 2014 Eurobarometer on smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes.
The study’s authors say the Eurobarometer survey is one of the “most detailed ever used in analyzing electronic cigarette use on a population level.” The Eurobarometer survey is conducted by the European Commission, assessing all 28 member states of the European Union.
The study says 48.5 million Europeans have tried an e-cigarette and 7.5 million are current users. Of those currently using e-cigarettes, 35.1 percent have quit smoking altogether and an additional 32.2 percent have cut down the amount they smoke.
“These are probably the highest rates of smoking cessation and reduction ever observed in such a large population study,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos.
“The European Union data show that the use of electronic cigarettes seems to have a positive impact on public health for two main reasons: 1. High smoking cessation and reduction rates are observed, and 2. Electronic cigarette use is largely confined to smokers (current and former), with minimal use by non-smokers.”
Confounding fears of some public health activists, there’s little evidence non-smokers are taking up vaping in any significant numbers.
“In non-smokers we observed some experimentation with electronic cigarettes, but regular use is minimal. Just 1.3 percent of non-smokers reported current use of nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes and 0.09 percent reported daily use,” said Jacques Le Houezec, a neuroscientist at the French National Research Institute for Health and Medical Research.
The study’s findings dispute the “gateway” theory, which claims rising e-cigarette use could prove a transition to regular tobacco smoking.
“Practically, there is no current or regular use of nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes by non-smokers, so the concern that electronic cigarettes can be a gateway to smoking is largely rejected by our findings,” said Le Houezec.
Pro-vaping groups were delighted by the study’s findings, and viewed it as a vindication of the case for e-cigarettes as harm reduction tools.
“For over seven years, tobacco control activists have loudly proclaimed that there is no evidence that vapor products help smokers quit,” said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association.
“As the evidence supporting the efficacy of vaping has piled up, these activists have continually doubled down on their denialist attitudes. In the process, the anti-harm-reduction camp has embraced worse and worse science to support their outdated views.
“Worldwide, vaping has undoubtedly helped over 10 million smokers quit. In the same year, this study was conducted, a similar population-level survey was performed in the United States. That 2014 study found that 2.4 million adults had quit smoking with vapor products. Here in 2016, that number has almost certainly risen past 3.5 or 4 million quitters in the U.S. alone.”
Conley urged tobacco control activists to heed the advice of bodies such as the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and Public Health England, who have been vocal about the potential benefits of e-cigarettes as a method to help smokers quit.
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