E-cigarettes 'likely to lead youngsters to tobacco'

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Peter Hajek, director of the health and lifestyle research unit at Queen Mary University, who was not involved in the study, said: 'It's absolutely clear that e-cigarettes help smokers replace cigarettes'.

"We found that e-cigarette use was associated with an increased smoking cessation rate at the level of subgroup analysis and at the overall population level".

After stalling for 15 years, the US quit-smoking rate rose to almost 6 percent in 2014-2015, up from less than 5 percent in prior years, according to national survey data. "The overall population cessation rate for 2014-15 was significantly higher than that for 2010-11, 5.6% v 4.5% (1.1%, 0.6% to 1.5%), and higher than those for all other survey years (range 4.3-4.5%)." reported the researchers. However, only 40 percent of smokers who did not use e-cigarettes tried the same.

"The people who say that use of e-cigarettes inhibits cessation should be sobered by this paper", said Dr. Steven Schroeder, a physician and tobacco researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.

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The global scientific community is divided over e-cigarettes and whether they are a useful public health tool as a nicotine replacement therapy or a potential "gateway" for young people to move on to start smoking tobacco.

"It makes no sense to provide smokers less alternatives to help them cut down and quit".

A study published Wednesday in The BMJ journal found that about two-thirds of e-cigarette smokers tried to quit smoking. US health officials have continued to promote abstinence to the public rather than encourage smokers to switch to less harmful products: online fact sheets published by CDC, FDA, and the National Cancer Institute list multiple health risks associated with smokeless tobacco, but give no indication it is less harmful than cigarettes. The authors write that things like national ad campaigns against smoking and a tobacco tax probably helped, too.

Schroeder and Zhu concede that e-cigarettes are probably not completely safe, but are likely less harmful than regular cigarettes.

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For the study, Zhu and colleagues collected data on more than 160,000 people who took part in five surveys between 2001 and 2015.

Dr Bhatnagar said: 'We just don't know if moving to e-cigarettes is good enough to reduce the harm'.

Research conducted by AACS showed that more than 50% of Australians supported the lifting of bans on nicotine products for e-cigarettes, and that 68% of smokers would try them if they were readily available and cheaper than cigarettes.

E-cig users also report finding it easier to refrain from their habit when in no-vaping areas, the study found.

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