Smokers who try e-cigarettes to quit are younger and more motivated to quit, study finds

University of Hawaii Cancer Center Prevention and Control Program researchers Pallav Pokhrel, PhD and Thaddeus Herzog, PhD have found that smokers who use e-cigarettes as a tool to stop smoking tend to be younger and more motivated to quit smoking as compared to other smokers.

Their study published online ahead of the print version in the American Journal of Public Health, found that approximately 13 percent of smokers had tried e-cigarettes as a means of quitting smoking. They also found that smokers who had tried e-cigarettes for smoking cessation help were younger and had been smoking for fewer years compared to other smokers.

The Hawaii-based survey analyzed responses from self-identified smokers who had consumed at least three cigarettes per day and at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime. The survey asked participants if they had ever used e-cigarettes to quit smoking and captured additional demographic information. The study also assessed participants' nicotine dependence, number of quit attempts in the past, and motivation to quit smoking.

"If e-cigarettes are found to be relatively safer and effective as cessation aids, the appeal that they have for younger adults should be used to enhance smoking cessation among younger smokers," said Dr. Pokhrel. "Conversely, if e-cigarettes are ineffective as cessation aids and are potentially a risk, strategies need to be developed to help younger smokers find effective cessation aids."

The study also found that Native Hawaiians were significantly less likely to use e-cigarettes than whites. Smokers who had used nicotine replacement gum, patches, bupropion, or varenicline were 2 to 4 times more likely to have used e-cigarettes as cessation aids. Further analysis revealed that motivation to quit smoking was higher among those who tried e-cigarettes than those who tried other cessation aids such as nicotine replacement gum or patches.

"Despite the lack of firm evidence regarding safety or effectiveness, e-cigarettes appear to have become cessation aids of choice for some smokers who appear to show a relatively higher motivation to quit smoking," said Dr. Herzog. "Thus, this study confirms the importance of promptly developing appropriate e-cigarette regulations that address smokers' use of e-cigarettes as cessation products," Herzog concluded.

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