Quitters turn to e-cigarettes

27 Feb 2019

quitters turn to e-cigarettesPeople trying to quit smoking are more likely to use electronic cigarettes and smokers who have quit were more likely to be daily users, a University of Queensland study has found.

The research is based on National Drug Strategy Household Survey data that estimates 227,000 Australian adults use e-cigarettes and 97,000 are daily users.

Dr Gary Chan, from UQ’s Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, said the data would be useful to shape local policies and the regulation of e-cigarettes in Australia.

“Our results indicate e-cigarette use is largely associated with trying to quit smoking cigarettes and is more common in males,” Dr Chan said.

“We also found psychological distress was associated with e-cigarette use, suggesting that smokers who are experiencing depression and anxiety may be using these products to quit smoking and reduce negative health implications.

“The current data here and overseas suggest that smokers wanting to use e-cigarettes to quit would need to use e-cigarettes daily.”

Dr Chan said the study didn’t measure how much nicotine was used in the electronic cigarettes.

“More research and longitudinal studies are required and, if further evidence confirms e-cigarette use is associated with quitting, the current regulations would need to be reconsidered.”

In Australia, nicotine products for e-cigarettes are banned unless approved as a medicine.

People who want nicotine in their e-cigarettes order it in liquid form from overseas or access it via a doctor's prescription.

Co-author Associate Professor Coral Gartner, from UQ’s School of Public Health, said changing policies to allow adult smokers to access nicotine products for e-cigarettes could lead to an increase in quit rates, similar to the experience in countries such as the United States and United Kingdom.

"People who smoke are exposing themselves to significant risk and harm to their health, so it is very important to get them to stop smoking as quickly as possible," Associate Professor Gartner said.

“Not smoking is the safest option, but for smokers who are having difficulty quitting smoking, switching completely to vaping will reduce their health risk.”

The findings are published in Addictive Behaviors.

Media: Dr Gary Chan, c.chan4@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3443 2533; UQ Communications Kirsten O’Leary, kirsten.oleary@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3365 7436. @UQhealth