Objective To assess the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in smoking cessation in the USA from 2017 to 2019, given the 2017 increase in high nicotine e-cigarette sales.
Methods In 2017, the PATH Cohort Study included data on 3578 previous year smokers with a recent quit attempt and 1323 recent former smokers. Respondents reported e-cigarettes or other products used to quit cigarettes and many covariates associated with e-cigarette use. Study outcomes were 12+ months of cigarette abstinence and tobacco abstinence in 2019. We report weighted unadjusted estimates and use propensity score matched analyses with 1500 bootstrap samples to estimate adjusted risk differences (aRD).
Results In 2017, 12.6% (95% CI 11.3% to 13.9%) of recent quit attempters used e-cigarettes to help with their quit attempt, a decline from previous years. Cigarette abstinence for e-cigarette users (9.9%, 95% CI 6.6% to 13.2%) was lower than for no product use (18.6%, 95% CI 16.0% to 21.2%), and the aRD for e-cigarettes versus pharmaceutical aids was −7.3% (95% CI −14.4 to –0.4) and for e-cigarettes versus any other method was −7.7% (95% CI −12.2 to –3.2). Only 2.2% (95% CI 0.0% to 4.4%) of recent former smokers switched to a high nicotine e-cigarette. Subjects who switched to e-cigarettes appeared to have a higher relapse rate than those who did not switch to e-cigarettes or other tobacco, although the difference was not statistically significant.
Conclusions Sales increases in high nicotine e-cigarettes in 2017 did not translate to more smokers using these e-cigarettes to quit smoking. On average, using e-cigarettes for cessation in 2017 did not improve successful quitting or prevent relapse.