Academic Studies Make E-Cigs Look Bad--But How Accurate Are They?

John Gilhooley
University of California San Francisco recently released two studies published by the Journal of the American Medical Association that have e-cigarette users up in arms and their adversaries wagging fingers saying, "I told you so!" One study claims that e-cigarettes are more likely to make adolescents pick up conventional smoking and the other asserted that e-cigs fail to work as smoking cessation devices.

The first may have more clout due to its large sample size of around 40,000 teens. JAMA found that from 2011 to 2012, when e-cigs began surfacing in the mainstream, the number of middle and high school smokers jumped from 3.1 percent to 6.5 percent. While these percentages are relatively small, the jump is noteworthy.

JAMA's researchers then claimed that teens who vape first are more likely to smoke regular cigarettes once a nicotine addiction is established. They believe that if a teen gets to that point, it's highly likely that the teen will continue to use both e-cigs and conventional cigarettes--resulting in more nicotine use per day.

On paper, this research makes sense. E-cigs are interesting, techie devices and blueberry pancake vapor is quite good. But just because something is appealing doesn't mean that teens overall are more likely to do it. Certain kids in high school just want to be badass and will start smoking no matter what their parents or popular culture says but others, no matter how good a cigarette may taste, are flat-out not interested.

The second study is far less convincing. UCSF surveyed 949 smokers in 2011, 88 of which used e-cigs, to find out how well e-cigs worked as cessation devices. After seven months, the researchers found that 10 percent of vapers quit smoking, and around 13 percent of regular smokers quit. While vaping doesn't appear wildly successful, 3 percent is hardly a big enough difference to close the case.

A New York Daily News article pointed out that the researchers don't know why those 88 people began using e-cigs in the first place, nor do they know for how long. In the article, Dr. Michael Siegel, who was not involved in the study, said JAMA assumed "that the groups are exactly equivalent in terms of their motivations and their levels of addiction." He asserted, "You can't make those assumptions. You're not dealing with comparable groups."

Vaping adversaries would have a better argument if patches helped staggering numbers of smokers quit. But a Reuters article from 2012 examined a study on smoking cessation devices and found that in a group of 7,400 people, 5 percent quit with nothing and 18 percent quit with the patch. They had a sample size almost seven times larger than JAMA and yet only a 8 percent higher success rate. The gap between those who quit with patches and those quit with e-cigs is virtually nonexistent.

Politicians are already citing these two studies in their efforts to try and outlaw e-cigs. Of course, if a smoker truly does not want to quit, then nothing will work. Once that decision is made, however, shouldn't they be free to use their cessation drug of choice?

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I dont trust these studies. Commercials tell us that second hand smoke kills when the stats are grossly skewed. I love eciggs. The way I feel after vaping isn't even close to the way I felt after smoking. Our body has a way of telling us that what we are putting into our bodies is bad. With eciggs, I never cough, or feel tired. The government thrives off of things that could pose a threat so they get a nice tax payout.

Matt Mestas
Matt Mestas

Why don't they look into this @BreakingNews: Autism diagnoses surge by 30% in children; now 1 in every 68 kids, CDC reports - @nbcnightlynews

Andy Au
Andy Au

The big WHAT IF the tobacco companies pay these researchers that e-cigs does not help smokers to quit smoking?


The main problem with local politicians trying to regulate human behavior is their overall lack of knowledge or understanding. Instead analyzing the data they resort to scare tactics to regulate behavior. 

What people don't ask about the 2011-2012 study is quality of the data. Three quarters of the same students are being sampled from one year to the next. A student that may have answered yes in 2011 then answers yes in 2012. Does that represent a doubling?? The studies also fail to recognize that people use zero nicotine e-liquds.

Hats off to the Irvine City Council for not jumping on the band wagon and recognizing that there isn't enough data to make any decision about banning ecig use in public parks. BTW, why isn't this reported in the news?????

Heart disease and diabetes are real killers but we don't see overzealous city councils banning the consumption of french fries or California burritos in public parks.

Parenting starts at home. City councils shouldn't be in the business of regulating fear. Laws exist to prevent ecig use by people under 18. Schools should do their job and make sure kids don't vape or smoke on campus!!


You're never going to stop teens from smoking or drinking. Lets face it. You all act as if you were never teens to begin with. No one's out there forcing teens at gun point to experiment. The best and only deterrent is PARENTING. You all should look into it. 


e-cigs are like obamacare in the sense that they are both driven by corporate propaganda. obamacare passed and healthcare stocks went up 10% on the same day...why? because ins companys wrote the bill.E-cigs ...who would be against something that stops cancer? cigarette makers maybe...with ecig shops popping up everywhere they cant be to happy...could they be behind all this bad press and shitty legislation...if history is any indicator you can count on it 

tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

If it's about kids than why am I being accused of having this disorder called Asperger's when I have no paperwork that supports the stuff as an adult. It has no relevancy and there is no diagnosis. I have heard that it is a fake disease and they have no cure for it or drugs to treat it..

whateveryousay topcommenter

Big Tobacco will dominate this industry.  Big Tobacco is not against this. They will develop their own products and crush it.

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