A French study found that 69 percent of e-cigarette users believe the devices can help a person quit tobacco smoking and are not as concerned about how possible toxins in e-cigarette vapors might affect them and those around them. They also think vapor is less harmful than secondhand smoke.
“Vapers” (people who use e-cigarettes) appear to have a different view of reality, compared with everyone else, said lead study author Dr. Sebastien Couraud, a doctor of respiratory medicine and thoracic oncology at Lyon Sud Hospital and Lyon University Cancer Institute in France.
Couraud presented his findings recently at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago.
E-cigarettes (also known as ENDS, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) are battery-operated devices that operate by “vaporizing,” or more, accurately, “aerosolizing” a liquid solution that contains nicotine. The aerosol or vapor is then inhaled by the user.
Couraud said that the public opinion his team captured appears to mirror ongoing expert debate over whether e-cigarettes can actually help people quit smoking and whether e-cigarette vapors might contain toxic chemicals.
Many e-cigarette users genuinely appear to want to quit smoking tobacco, Couraud said. They are more likely to be worried about dying from lung cancer than people who only smoke tobacco, he suggested. E-cigarette users are also more likely to think that using e-cigs will reduce their risk of lung cancer death, the survey revealed.
While these devices are growing in popularity in France and in the United States, unlike traditional tobacco products, e-cigarettes are not currently regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA issued a proposed rule that would extend its tobacco authority to cover additional products such as e-cigarettes.
The findings from the French survey highlight why regulation of e-cigarettes from the FDA is needed as soon as possible, said ASCO spokesperson Dr. Jyoti Patel, an associate professor of hematology and oncology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
“For people who are addicted to nicotine, e-cigarettes don’t help,” Patel said. “They are still addicted, and they use a lot. It’s not a bridge to abstinence. It’s a way for them to stay addicted in a restaurant or an airplane, where they are unable to smoke.”
Researchers found that e-cigarettes tend to be much more dependent on nicotine than traditional cigarette smokers, based on a standard test of nicotine addiction. About 58 percent of e-cigarette users registered as very or highly addicted, compared with 46 percent of people who only smoked tobacco.
In January, ASCO issued a call for regulation of e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems, in conjunction with the American Association for Cancer Research, Patel noted.
For the study, researchers surveyed nearly 1,500 residents of France. Ninety-three (6 percent) of those surveyed were e-cigarette users, and 74 of them also still smoked tobacco cigarettes, according to the survey.
Couraud and Patel both said that American opinions of e-cigarettes likely are similar to those found in this French survey.
The French are right. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that significantly more Americans are using electronic-cigarettes and other vaporizing devices than a year ago, but most of those consumers are also smoking conventional cigarettes.
About 10 percent of U.S. adults now vape, according to the online poll of 5,679 Americans conducted between May 19 and June 4. That’s almost four times higher than a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 2.6 percent of adults used e-cigarettes in 2013.
About 15 percent of poll participants under the age of 40 now vape. In 2013, 18.8 percent of those 18 to 24 and 20.1 percent of those 25 to 44 smoked cigarettes, according to the CDC’s data.
The surge in use comes as conventional cigarette smoking has declined in the United States to about 19 percent of adults, prompting tobacco companies like Altria Group Inc., Lorillard Inc. and Reynolds American Inc. to rush into the e-cigarette market. The number of U.S. vape shops has risen to at least 15,000 from virtually zero just a few years ago, according to recent industry estimates.
CADCA’s Mid-Year Training Institute will offer courses for health advocates on the topic. One course, facilitated by Collen Hopkins from CADCA’s Tobacco Prevention Program, “Back to the Future: The Vape Shop, Hookah & E-Cigarette Challenge,” will explore just that. CADCA’s Mid-Year Training Institute offers half-day and two-day courses for new, established and veteran drug prevention professionals in eight subject areas. Learn more about the training tracks, key speakers and other details about CADCA’s Mid-Year Training Institute. Register today.
Many of CADCA’s coalitions are working on anti-vaping policies in their communities. Share your coalition’s work on e-cigarettes, vape shops and/or hookah with Colleen Hopkins at email@example.com. CADCA would like to highlight the lessons learned and promising practices you all are using with other coalitions.