Research into electronic cigarettes has come a long way since they first began to gain international notice in 2008. Much of the results are spun negatively or provided without comparison to conventional cigarettes or outright ignored in follow-up discussions about whether electronic cigarettes should be used. This is as often done by the researchers themselves as by media, politicians, and anti-smoking nuts.
On occasion, there is a study that cleanly and concisely goes after the facts. In November of 2009, the first of these occurred. A number of individuals from the University of Alberta (that’s Canada) worked with a UK-based electronic cigarette distributor to survey e-cig consumers. This group included CASAA’s now science director Carl V. Phillips.
The survey returned the first tangible results contradicting extremist nicotine-abstinence proponents’ claims that e-cigs were appealing disproportionately to younger, non-smokers. Every single respondent had smoked before using electronic cigarettes and a whopping 86% were over the age of 30. As well, a vast majority of users reported better smoker’s cough, better capacity for exercise, better sense of taste and smell, and better overall health. Not a single respondent claimed any worsened symptoms of smoking.
This was big. Granted, it’s not clinical trials, doctor’s physicals, and x-rays, but more than 300 responses had supported electronic cigarettes as a less harmful and successful replacement for smoking. Even then, the researchers suggested that the health benefits of switching from smoking to electronic cigarettes would evaporate if the trend towards banning electronic cigarettes continued. Interesting note: The sale of e-cigs containing nicotine was banned in Canada as of March 2009.
The survey was completed 303 times. After removing responses of possible duplicates (those with duplicate IPs or no IP at all), the survey had 270 responses. The percentages below are for the non-duplicate responses, but you can see the complete study here.
As said above, all were smokers before using electronic cigarettes and 86% were over the age of 30. Despite the distributor assisting with the survey being based in the UK, 77% of respondents lived in the US.
Most (78%) of the respondents were relatively new electronic cigarette users having only used the devices for 0-5 months. Another 19% had been e-cig users for 6-12 months. This is not unexpected as the industry was still very new.
This also turned out to be a community largely filled with people that had attempted to quit before and failed. Only 8% of respondents said that they hadn’t attempted to quit before using electronic cigarettes. The largest percentage (46%) of those that had tried to quit, had tried 4 to 9 times before. 87% had tried pharmaceutical cessation products and 64% of them said that these products didn’t help them at all.
Electronic cigarettes, however, had replaced quite a lot of smoking for respondents. For 82%, electronic cigarettes had completely replaced conventional cigarette smoking.
Health improvements were also a big issue. A whopping 94% had said their overall health was better since beginning to use electronic cigarettes. The smoker’s cough improved for 98% of users, ability to exercise improved for 88%, sense of smell improved for 82%, and sense of taste improved for 77%. Considering that most users had only just started using electronic cigarettes in the last 5 months, these changes were fairly immediate and drastic.
The responses were overwhelmingly good for the new product. Granted this study focused primarily on a group that was primed for success stories–namely, individuals already purchasing electronic cigarettes and willing to answer a survey about them–but this was the first major sign that there were success stories to be shared.
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