Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Can Vaping Help People Quit Smoking? It’s a Fact


Simon Chapman, emeritus professor in public health at the University of Sydney in Australia, is a long-time anti-tobacco activist and frequent contributor to The Conversation, which bills itself as “the world's leading publisher of research-based news and analysis.”  Undercutting that claim is a May 3 article Chapman authored, titled, “Can vaping help people quit smoking?” Chapman predictably answered that “It’s unlikely.”

His vaping analysis in support of that finding is grossly flawed.

Chapman starts with the “Myth of ‘hardened smokers’” -- “die-hard addicts: frequently relapsing smokers who just can’t quit.”  He asserts that their existence is a myth because the “average number of cigarettes smoked per day would be rising.”  That number has, in fact, fallen, but for entirely unrelated reasons, such as the imposition of a range of barriers to smoking, both social and economic, over a period of 20 years.

Chapman follows with a sweeping statement: “In other words, there is no evidence long-term smokers are impervious to the suite of tobacco control policies and campaigns that have driven hundreds of millions of smokers around the world to quit.”

No evidence?  There is definitive evidence: 480,000 dead smokers every year in the U.S.

Next, Chapman says that “Vapes don’t help smokers cut back.”  He’s talking about smokers who also vape, and there may be some truth in that, but the larger reality is that Chapman and his anti-tobacco allies in government and academia have been waging for years a very successful misinformation campaign, convincing smokers that vaping is as, or more dangerous than smoking.

Chapman asks how effective vapes are for smoking cessation, and answers with this: “The most recent Cochrane review of randomised controlled trials compared vaping with nicotine replacement therapy (such as drugs, gums and patches). It found about 82% of people who vape are still smoking when followed up six or more months later.  This was better than those using nicotine replacement therapy: 90% were still smoking.”  That answer is both humorous and revealing.

It’s amusing because I have made the same claim about medicinal nicotine for decades, and I agree that “trials also poorly reflect the ways vapes and nicotine replacement therapy are used in the real world and aren’t representative of all smokers wanting to quit.” (here)  In fact, population success with medicinal nicotine is only 7%.  But his answer is also revealing, since his point that 82% of those vaping are still smoking means that 18% quit with vapes, compared with only 10% relying on nicotine medicines.  Why would anyone deny smokers, who could be facing life-threatening illness, the option to quit by vaping?

Chapman posted his article in support of Australia’s crackdown on access to vaping products. Clearly, that government initiative and his pseudo-scientific analysis are woefully flawed.


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