I’ve been kind of reluctant to comment on vaping studies from years past, since I feel like most of the studies conducted prior to this past year have been kind of subpar. This is not to say that the researchers conducting these studies are at fault here, but rather that vaping was really, really poorly understood before its sudden explosion on the public scene within the past year, so many studies even from 2014 suffer from a severe dearth of expertise on the topic. Before the advent of vape shops and the now ubiquitous availability of e-liquids the scattered nature of the emergent “vaping culture” made it difficult to know exactly how people even vaped as well as what they vaped. Most studies from before this year, then, are kind of useless.
That said, today I came across a short letter published last summer in the American Psychological Association’s Addiction newsletter. Though it was a full year old, the letter, which synthesized a number of the researchers’ previous studies on the prevalence of vaping, brought forth a good number of interesting points, and a lot of evidence supporting the value of vaping.
In one of the studies mentioned, current smokers were presented with a choice of three different cigalikes, and then set free to roam the world for a week, smoking and vaping as much as they desire. Over the course of the sampling period, their confidence in their ability to quit smoking, as well as their desire to try to do so to begin with, skyrocketed. Even though none of the smokers were told to reduce their smoking by any amount, they voluntarily reduced the amount they smoked by 44% over the course of the week.
Another study set out to test the hypothesis that vaping is a gateway into smoking. Though the study was cross-sectional as opposed to longitudinal, some of the questions asked seem to provide some temporal dimension to the findings. Out of a total of more than 1,300 college students surveyed, almost 200 of them, or 14.6%, had tried electronic cigarettes. This, of course, is in line with number we’ve seen from other sources. What’s more interesting is that of those students for whom electronic cigarettes had been the first tobacco product they had tried, 46 in total, only one had become an occasional user of vapes, with two more transitioning to smoking cigarettes with some regularity. By contrast, of the more than 300 students who had first tried cigarettes, almost 25% were, at the time of the study, regular smokers.
The final study outlined in this paper indicated that tank-system vapes are quite reliable in reducing smokers’ number of cigarettes smoked, and that most vapers using tank-system vapes gradually decrease their preferred nicotine levels, providing evidence that vaping, far from increasing nicotine addiction, actually helps reduce it.
All of this, to me, is pretty fascinating. What is even a little more fascinating, though, is that all of this information is readily available, and just as readily ignored. Vapers are often subjected to endless tirades about the lack of evidence regarding vaping, when what is really meant by these tirades is that the evidence does not seem credible to people who approach it with entirely preconceived ideas about what it should be saying in the first place.