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Roswell Park study shows daily vaping may be beneficial for heavy smokers who had no plans to kick the habit

The vaping study looked at 1,600 smokers who are also part of a much larger, nationwide study on tobacco use.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A Roswell Park study published last week in JAMA Network Open shows that adult smokers with no plans to quit are more likely to give up the habit if they switch to daily vaping.

There are almost 40 million cigarette smokers in the United States, according to Andrew Hyland, Ph.D., Chair of Health Behavior at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo. About 15 percent of those are considered to be the most highly addicted. They're the focus of the study that shows daily vaping dramatically ups the quit rate among that group.

"What we found when we followed these people over the course of a year, those people that took up vaping daily were eight times more likely to quit smoking a year later compared to those people who didn't take up vaping or only vaped on some days," said Hyland, who is the scientific lead on the nationwide Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health study.

The Roswell Park vaping study looked at 1,600 smokers and used data from 2014 to 2019, collected as part of the PATH study — a long-term analysis of tobacco use and how it affects the health of youth and adults in the United States.

Hyland says hardcore smokers aren't studied much and are often at the highest risk of health problems because of their bad habit.

"This group — smokers who have no intention to quit — has been overlooked in the literature. It really suggests that for some people, daily vaping may be a gateway out of cigarette smoking. It may give them hope that they can go a day without cigarette smoking with some of that nicotine from the vaping products replacing the cigarettes," said Hyland. "Having said that, there are still toxins in e-cigarettes, toxins in vaping products. They tend to be fewer in number and lower in concentration. It's not a blanket thing that vaping is good or vaping is bad."

Hyland isn't necessarily giving an overall green light to vaping, especially since there are still unknowns about the long-term effects of vaping.

"It would be wonderful if nobody used any nicotine products, but that's not the reality of where we are. To me, it's about under what conditions vaping might be helpful, if any conditions," said Hyland. "Vaping is almost certainly less toxic than cigarette smoking. Most of the harm from cigarettes comes from the burning of tobacco. When you burn it, it changes the chemical composition, and that's what releases the 4,000 chemicals and 60 or 70 or so carcinogens."

Hyland recommends talking with your doctor to craft a smoking cessation plan that's right for you. There are medications, patches, and gum to take the edge off cravings.

If you or someone you know is looking to quit, he recommends taking advantage of the free New York State Smokers' Quitline.