Bolstered by a recent survey that 3 million Americans had quit smoking by vaping, consumer advocates say e-cigarettes are proving to be a boon for public health.
“It’s now possible to tell how many people became ex-smokers because of e-cigarettes with clear evidence showing a great many people can use e-cigarettes for this purpose,” said Alex Clark, CEO of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke Free Alternatives Association.
After first appearing in 2004, the number of U.S. adults vaping grew to 10.8 million by 2016, according to a national survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The obvious upside is that more than 10 million people are smoking less and many have switched completely to a smoke-free alternative,” Clark said. “Of course, the downside here is that we’re only talking about 10 million people. Thirty-six million people in the United States continue to smoke, and without appropriate messaging from health professionals, fewer people are likely to try vaping or smokeless tobacco as an alternative to combustible tobacco.”
Over 50 percent of all e-cigarette consumers are younger than 35, with the greatest proportion of consumers aged betwen 18 and 24, the survey found.
“We believe that this age group is also receptive to the harm reduction message about smoke-free tobacco and nicotine products,” Clark said.
Michael J. Blaha, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, however, cautioned that it was important to keep a close eye on whether the use of e-cigarettes carried its own risks.
“Almost everyone would agree that the use of e-cigarettes among people who have never smoked—we’re up to almost 2 million people—is something we have to watch very carefully,” Blaha said in a New York Times article.
However, Clark said that the benefits far outweighed the minimal risks involved in vaping.
“Taking Dr. Blaha’s statement literally,” Clark said, “we must emphatically state that merely trying a smoke-free tobacco or nicotine product poses practically no risk. In fact, just the opposite is true when people who smoke try vapor products and go on to improve their health by quitting smoking.”