More than 60% of American adults who vape say they want to stop, a new study reports.
Some use electronic cigarettes to try to quit smoking traditional cigarettes, then end up vaping and smoking, the researchers found.
"While e-cigarettes may work for some people, they're hindering quit attempts for other people," said study first author Amanda Palmer, a postdoctoral fellow at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), in Charleston.
The new study included data on more than 30,000 adults across the United States.
The findings showed that ex-cigarette smokers were most interested in giving up vaping, too.
Although evidence shows switching to e-cigarettes can be as effective as medication to help people quit smoking, many continue to vape after they've given up traditional cigarettes. And many go on to use both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes, which increases risks to their health, the study authors said.
"What's interesting about the people who keep using e-cigarettes after they've quit smoking is that we don't really see that effect with other types of nicotine replacement drugs," Palmer said in an MUSC news release.
"It's rare to see someone still using a nicotine patch or nicotine gum months or years after they've quit smoking, so there's something special about e-cigarettes, even though they're delivering the same drug," she added.
Unlike other nicotine replacement therapies, e-cigarettes are designed to be addictive, the study authors pointed out. Their nicotine levels are similar to those of regular cigarettes, which makes it hard to quit.
People using both often feel more addicted and have trouble quitting either product. There are no evidence-based treatments to help people who want to stop vaping, the researchers noted.
Senior study author Benjamin Toll, said, "I think we're doing patients a disservice by not having rigorous research to give these patients appropriate evidence-based care."
Toll is chief of tobacco cessation and health behaviors at the Hollings Cancer Center at MUSC, and an associate professor of public health sciences.
"Many of my patients who have switched to e-cigarettes find it challenging to stop using them. I would like to have data supporting the methods I share with them, and we currently don't have those in any of our clinical practice guidelines," Toll said.
Palmer noted that methods to help people quit vaping differ depending on why they starting using e-cigarettes in the first place.
"If you use cigarettes, you're probably smoking for a short duration 10 to 20 times per day, whereas a lot of our e-cigarette users are vaping continuously all day and in situations where they might not otherwise be smoking," she said.
That suggests there may be a need for different behavioral treatments with different coping strategies, Palmer added.
According to recent estimates, roughly 3% of U.S. adults vape.
"A lot of the press and attention around e-cigarette use has to do with youth and adolescents, but it feels like a lot of people older than 25 who use e-cigarettes tend to be left out of that conversation," Palmer said.
Young people are more likely to experiment with e-cigarettes, while adults -- especially those who rely on them as a smoking-cessation device -- often use them consistently, creating a need for tailored interventions.
Patients should speak with their doctor to determine how best to quit vaping, she advised.
"E-cigarettes are addictive and are not 100% safe," Palmer said. "If you're considering vaping as a method to quit smoking, consider some of the risks and benefits, and be aware that many people continue to vape after they quit smoking."
The findings were published online April 2 in JAMA Network Open.
For tips on quitting vaping, visit SmokeFree.Gov.
SOURCE: Medical University of South Carolina, news release, April 2, 2021