Since the publication of the now infamous “Hidden Formaldehyde” paper, articles on e-cigs have seemingly been flooding academic journals. A new study, published recently in Nicotine & Tobacco Research and conducted at Penn State, takes a look at vaping habits and preferences among a group of more than 4000 survey respondents. The main data researchers tracked had to do with vapers’ use of first generation devices (FDGs), meaning cigarette-like vapes, versus advanced generation devices (ADGs), namely open system vapes.
Most of the findings shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who is at all familiar with the vaping industry. While more than half of vapers begin vaping using FGDs, more than 60% of these vapers eventually switch to ADGs if they choose to continue vaping. By contrast, fewer than 10% of vapers who start off with AGDs switch to FDGs. AGD users are also more likely to be male, be educated beyond high school, and have been vaping for longer than FDG users.
Buried in this data is an interesting data point: while a full 39% of cigalike vapers are concurrent tobacco smokers, only 10.5% of AGD vapers still smoke cigarettes. The researchers somehow do not tease this point out further, though it is deserving of more attention.
Keep in mind that AGD vapers are the ones who are supposed to be in the gravest danger. They vape twice as much every day as FGD vapers, show slightly higher levels of nicotine addiction, and it has been shown many times that they can, through practice, get far higher yields of nicotine in their nicotine aerosol than cigalike users, despite the latter group usually using liquids higher in nicotine concentration. The fact that AGD users manage to quit despite their higher levels of dependence on nicotine should be indisputable proof that vaping actually works as a quitting aid, and that it is certainly not a gateway drug into more tobacco consumption. I find it difficult to believe that AGD users are not subjecting themselves to significantly less harm than FGD users, who do not appear to be as well equipped to fully quit smoking.
This kind of study is also crucial in determining the implications of various proposed vaping regulations. For one, they show that regulations with differential impacts on ADGs versus FDGs might well reduce the usefulness of vaping for many users. Since so many long term vapers appear to have finally managed to quit smoking on switching to the far more effective AGDs or starting off with AGDs, regulations that would stifle innovation in the AGD market would have devastating effects on quit rates. These regulations do not have to go so far as to ban AGDs. Though Reynolds executives famously urged the FDA to ban open system vapes, which would be categorized as advanced generation devices by this study, the FDA thankfully does not appear to have taken these suggestions into account, and open system containers will likely not be banned; however, restrictions aimed at bottled e-liquid, for instance, do carry differing consequences for AGDs versus FGDs, as do restrictions on the online sale of vapes and e-liquid. These restrictions are very much real, as shown by the latest Washington bill, which would both ban flavored e-liquids and outlaw the online sale of vaping products. These restrictions will also have a very real effect on quit rates among vapers.