Dr Leonie Brose, lead author of the first study, from the IoPPN at King’s College London, said: ‘E-cigarettes are still a relatively new product, so this study adds important information about what happens when they are used alongside tobacco cigarettes. We already know that using an e-cigarette in an attempt to quit smoking increases the chances of success compared to quitting without any support. This study did not test how helpful they are as quitting aids because we looked at smokers who were using them for any reason, including just to cut down on their smoking or in situations when they cannot smoke. But it is encouraging to see that even then, regular e-cigarette use was linked to reduced numbers of lethal cigarettes smoked and increased attempts to quit smoking in the following year.’
The second study extended this by looking at not only how often e-cigarettes were used but also what types were used, measured for the first time at follow up in 2013. E-cigarettes in the UK have been classified into two basic types – ‘cigalikes’ and ‘tank’ models. Cigalikes resemble tobacco cigarettes. They are disposable or use replaceable cartridges. Tank models look quite different from cigarettes and have containers that are refilled with the ‘e-liquid’.
In the second study the researchers found that of 587 people using e-cigarettes at the one year follow up, 76 per cent used cigalikes and 24 per cent used tank models. Nearly a third of daily tank users (28 per cent) had quit smoking compared with 13 per cent of those not using an e-cigarette. 11 per cent of daily cigalike users and 9 per cent of non-daily tank users had quit smoking, but these were not significantly different from those not using e-cigarettes.
Non-daily cigalike users were actually less likely to have quit compared with those not using e-cigarettes, with only 5 per cent having quit smoking. The researchers highlight this as a cause for concern because many of the most prominent brands of cigalikes in the UK are now owned by the tobacco industry. A recent study carried out at the IoPPN, funded by Cancer Research UK, found that tobacco industry cigalikes were the most prominent e-cigarettes at the point of sale in small shops.