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FDA's E-Cig Proposal Could Backfire For Adult Smokers Who Want To Quit

The FDA's proposed restrictions are aimed at curbing teen vaping. But vapes can be useful for helping adult smokers quit.
Posted at 1:10 PM, Nov 16, 2018

The FDA announced plans Thursday to restrict sales of some flavored e-cigarette and tobacco products to help curb teen vaping and smoking. The policy is expected to control the "epidemic of youth e-cigarette use," but it could complicate things for adult smokers who want to use vapes as they quit tobacco. 

Officials from the FDA and Health and Human Services say vapes are a useful cessation tool. In August, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted, "Vaping may well be a good alternative for currently addicted smokers to help them quit cigarettes." And during Thursday's announcement, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said he did not want the new rule to block the "off-ramp for adults who are trying to quit combustible cigarettes." 

But right now, it's not entirely clear if vapes are useful for every adult who's trying to quit. Research doesn't show a consensus.

A 2017 British Medical Journal study found that e-cigarette use was associated with more people quitting tobacco, and even seemed to work better than medication. A Substance Use & Misuse report found young adults who vaped fruity flavors were more likely to quit smoking real cigarettes than those who vaped tobacco or menthol flavors.  

But there are also a handful of studies that show mostly the opposite effect. In July, a Public Library of Science study found adult smokers who attempted to stop smoking without a vaping device were more than twice as likely to actually quit compared to those who used a vape.

Still, smoking rates across the U.S. are falling, especially for adults. A November CDC report found the rate of adults smoking cigarettes fell to 14 percent — its lowest level since 1965, when the CDC started collecting that data.