Wednesday, August 15, 2018

UK Favors E-Cigarettes, Scores Major Smoking Reduction; Anti-Vaping Ireland Sees Smoking Rates Unchanged

There is, as I have noted (here), a stark contrast between British government and medical authorities’ support for e-cigarettes and vaping, and the demonization of same by most of the American public health community.  A similar clash of positions exists between the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland.

The British blogger Dick Puddlecote observes (here) that the UK and Ireland are “nearest cultural neighbours, so closely aligned [that] we that we don't even enforce passport requirements between the two countries.  The British and the Irish are about as good a comparison for ecological purposes as there can possibly be.  And, as [British Member of Parliament Sir Kevin] Barron said, the only difference between UK policy and Irish policy is that over here our government cautiously welcomes new nicotine products whereas in Ireland they don't.”

Puddlecote underscores: “In the UK smoking rates have nosedived, while in Ireland they have barely shifted.”

I have verified that statement by reviewing government data.  The UK’s Office for National Statistics reported that smoking prevalence was 20% in 2012, after stalling during the six previous years (here).  However, between 2012 and 2017, the rate fell to 15% (here). 

Ireland started out in 2012 at nearly the same prevalence, 22% (here).  But five years later it was unchanged (here), according to the Ireland Department of Health.

The difference in smoking reduction in these neighboring countries is extraordinary.  As Puddlecote observes, “this deserves more attention…You just have to wonder why the tobacco control industry and other politicians, both sides of the Irish Sea, have been so silent about it.”


Thursday, August 2, 2018

More Vaping Facts, Not All Good, from 2017 CDC Data

CDC and other U.S. government agencies rarely publish straightforward numbers and conclusions about adult e-cigarette use; their focus is usually on underage use.  Last month, by re-analyzing the federal data, I demonstrated that the number of American vapers declined in 2017 (here); following are additional insights.

As seen in the table below, the number of every-day e-cigarette users increased between 2014 and 2016.  However, in 2017 the number dropped by almost a quarter-million.  The proportions of current, former and never smokers in 2014 were 50%, 46% and 4%.  By 2016 the proportions were 32%, 58% and 10%, indicating that more every-day e-cigarette users were former smokers.  In 2017, the proportion of former smokers inched up again: 32%, 60% and 8%.

Number (in millions) and Prevalence (%) of Every-Day and Some-Day E-Cigarette Use in the U.S., 2014 to 2017


20142.71 (1.1%)6.20 (2.6%)8.91 (3.7%)
20152.94 (1.2%)5.40 (2.2%)8.34 (3.4%)
20163.03 (1.2%)4.77 (2.0%)7.80 (3.2%)
20172.79 (1.1%)4.09 (1.7%)6.88 (2.8%)
The number of some-day e-cigarette users declined in 2017 for the third consecutive year, to 4.09 million – over 2 million fewer than in 2014.  Most were current smokers in all years, but the proportions shifted:  In 2014, they were 80%, 12% and 8% for current, former and never smokers.  By 2016, the proportions were 68%, 18% and 14%; and in 2017, they were 62%, 15% and 23%.

In 2017, there were 1.17 million never smokers who were current vapers, and 80% of this group (933,000) were using e-cigarettes some days.   The vast majority of some-day users were either 18-24 years of age (68%), or 25-34 (23%), suggesting that vaping is displacing smoking in these younger groups.

It is unfortunate that the number of daily and some-day U.S. vapers is declining, as the facts demonstrate that tobacco harm reduction can only be successful if smoke-free tobacco consumption increases among inveterate smokers.

Note: Thanks to Bill Godshall for requesting these additional insights.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

More Proof from FDA Population Data Showing E-Cigarettes As Popular Quit-Smoking Aids

While the number of American vapers declined over the last three years (as I reported here), e-cigarettes were still far more popular quit-smoking aids than medicinal nicotine or other drugs, according to researchers at the University of California San Diego (here).

Tarik Benmarhnia and colleagues used information from Waves 1 and 2 of the FDA-funded Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study to evaluate “the influence of [e-cigarettes] and pharmaceutical cessation aids [varenicline, bupropion and nicotine medicines, NRT] on persistent abstinence (≥30 days) from cigarettes, and reduced cigarette consumption” during the period 2013 to 2015.  They concluded:

“Our results indicate that [e-cigarettes] are a more popular choice than approved pharmaceutical products as a smoking cessation aid among US quit attempters, over three quarters of whom were daily smokers.  In the future, as [vapor] products continue to evolve to make nicotine delivery more similar to that obtained from a cigarette, it is possible that they may play a bigger role in assisting smokers to quit combustible tobacco.”

This study confirms my research group’s earlier analysis of Wave 1 PATH data: E-cigarettes are among the most commonly used quit aids for American smokers, and they are the only aid more likely to make one a former smoker (i.e., a successful quitter) than trying to quit cold-turkey (here).