Most smokers in a nationwide study rejected “vaping” as a way to kick the tobacco habit and saw the devices as less satisfying than old-fashioned combustible cigarettes, according to researchers who conducted the analysis.
E-cigarettes have been marketed as a safe method of breaking a cigarette-smoking habit because they deliver the nicotine punch smokers crave without the slew of toxins — disease-causing tars and carbon monoxide — that are inhaled with each drag on a conventional cigarette.
The findings, released Tuesday, are based on a nationwide survey of more than 700 smokers and come within days of new federal regulatory directives that introduced the first governmental controls on e-cig manufacturers and retailers. Until last week, the industry had functioned rule-free since its inception slightly more than a decade ago.
Public health researchers at the Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science in Georgia concluded that unless makers of the devices find ways of equaling the satisfaction smokers derive from cigarettes, e-cigs probably will never serve as effective cessation devices.
Among 585 current smokers, 58 percent reported trying e-cigs to break the habit but didn’t like the products and stopped using them. Another 40 percent said they were dual users, alternately smoking and vaping, said lead investigator Terry Pechacek, professor of health management and policy at Georgia State University.
The electronic products contain cartridges that can be filled with nicotine, caffeine and flavorings. The slurry of liquids in the cartridge is heated, creating steam — the vapor — that is inhaled.
Susan Kennedy, director of the Tobacco Action Coalition of Long Island noted that the developing portrait of electronic cigarette use is quite complex. A segment of the growing e-cig-using population on Long Island, as elsewhere, is gravitating toward smoking on some occasions, vaping on others, she said.
“Some people are using them for harm reduction,” Kennedy said of those using only e-cigs to wean themselves off cigarettes. “There are others who don’t find them satisfying and who go back to cigarettes. But there also dual users, people who use both of them. . . . Generally, people wind up not quitting, or using both, so the end result is not the best result.”
One of the coalition’s biggest concerns is the growing number of teens who have gravitated to vaping and for whom electronic cigarettes become a gateway product to conventional cigarettes, Kennedy said.
The use of e-cigs among teens statewide, she said, is huge — and growing.
A New York State Department of Health investigation last fall revealed that 10.5 percent of high school students and 12.7 percent of young adults between 18 and 24 used electronic cigarettes at almost double the 5.7 percent rate of the product’s usage by adults 25 and older. The data, published in November, was from the state’s first report on e-cigarette usage.
Patricia Folan, director of Northwell Health’s Center for Tobacco Control in Great Neck, told Newsday last week that her center does not use e-cigs to help smokers break cigarette habits. Most of information about the products serving as cessation devices has come from the e-cig industry, Folan said.
A segment of the e-cigarette industry is owned by Big Tobacco.
Cigarette giant Altria, makers of Marlboro and other cigarette brands, also has an e-cigarette line. E-cig products sold in this country and Europe are manufactured by corporations that have sold nicotine-based products for more than a century, critics say.
Potent levels of nicotine in electronic cigarettes, Kennedy said, only strengthen dependency on the highly addictive compound. She said e-cigs are considered tobacco products because the nicotine in them is derived from tobacco, the cheapest source of the chemical.
Vapers insist the products are life savers because they help wean smokers off cigarettes. Aaron Klauschke, owner Cloudtronix Vapor Lounge in Sayville, said that he, his brother and mother were all smokers and that his mother developed lung cancer because of smoking.
He said vaping has helped him give up cigarettes for good.