The lengths electronic cigarette opponents will go to in order to argue against the devices remains staggering even today. You’d think we would get used to it, but every once in a while they surprise even us. Most recently, it involves a small study which researchers are swearing proves that electronic cigarettes don’t help with smoking cessation.
There’s a lot of problems with this study — many of which are detailed by e-cig advocate Dr. Michael Siegel.
The most significant issue is that the study tracked smoking cessation year over year in 88 smokers who used an electronic cigarette at least once in the month previous to the study starting. So there is no guarantee that these individuals actually use electronic cigarettes regularly. Even more ridiculous is that more than 90% of these individuals admitted they were not attempting to quit smoking. So the low quit rate says nothing for the actual quit rate of those using electronic cigarettes for that purpose or even those using electronic cigarette regularly.
This is no where near the first time statistics like these have been used. The CDC reported that electronic cigarette use by teens doubled from 2011 to 2012, but they too used only the metric of whether individuals has used an electronic cigarette at least once in the last month (they called these individuals current users). So a teen that used an electronic cigarette everyday and one that used one only once ever (but recently) were considered part of the same group. In reality, the study only showed the rate of trial, but showed nothing of actual, ongoing use.
Take another instance of smoking cessation research. A small study found no statistically significant difference in quit rate between those quitting using a nicotine patch and those which used electronic cigarettes to quit. The patch is sold for cessation, and yet, some e-cig detractors argued that no statistically significant difference meant that e-cigs had failed to succeed at cessation. Not only is this an entirely incorrect use of the phrase, but non-quitting users in the e-cig group managed to cut down on total smoking by far more than those in the patch group.
Like I said. This is not entirely uncommon, but this is even more of a stretch than we’re used to. A research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine refers to the evidence on whether electronic cigarettes help smokers quit as contradictory and inconclusive. With research like this being done, it’s no wonder.