Study author Terry Pechacek told HealthDay News that smokers ideally would find e-cigarettes more appealing and less dangerous than traditional cigarettes, and suggested that traditional cigarettes should be "degraded" to encourage a switch.
"Even if they're only half as risky, there would be a huge public health benefit if we could switch 40 million smokers to them," said Pechacek, also a professor and interim division director of Health Management and Policy at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
The study, published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, is one of the first to look at whether smokers find e-cigarettes to be a satisfying alternative to regular cigarettes.It surveyed more than 5,700 Americans in 2014, and focused on the 729 current and former smokers who had tried e-cigarettes. Of the 585 current smokers who had tried e-cigarettes, 58 percent (337 people) self-reported that they didn't use them anymore and 42 percent (248 people), said they smoked both. Among the 144 former smokers, 101 had quit smoking altogether and 43 had switched exclusively to e-cigarettes.
"Greater than fivefold more current smokers did not find them satisfying and stopped using them," says the report, making it unlikely that e-cigarettes "will replace regular cigarettes unless they improve."
Pechacek told HealthDay that follow-up research to be released later suggest the problem is related to nicotine delivery, smell and flavor. In the big picture, "E-cigarettes may help a few people to quit, but mostly they don't. And the suspicion from these data is that they help keep people smoking. That is not something that the e-cigarette advocates want to hear," Thomas Wills, professor and interim director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, told HealthDay.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration acted to regulate e-cigarettes in early May. The rules ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, require health warnings on all packaging and advertisements and require manufacturers to get federal approval on all products introduced to the market after Feb. 15, 2007. It did not address advertising and marketing. The measure goes into effect Aug. 8, and gives affected industries two years to comply.
Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, told HealthDay that the rules will weaken the innovation of e-cigarettes.
He pointed out that the study did not establish if participants used an old model of e-cigarettes or a new one, which have become more appealing. He also noted that most smokers in the study who switched to e-cigarettes were more likely to use a "tank-style" device, which can deliver more nicotine and last longer than devices that look more like cigarettes.