“Do e-cigarettes actually help people quit smoking?” The Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, is recruiting smokers who vape (i.e., dual users) for a clinical trial that, according to spokesman Vani Nath Simmons (here), aims to answer that question. Researchers will be using federal grants to convince smoker-vapers to quit smoking, and possibly to quit vaping, by sending them self-help booklets.
The researchers, led by Thomas Brandon, Ph.D., have long been interested in providing smokers low-cost self-help interventions for quitting and preventing relapse. They mail study participants booklets called “Forever Free,” teaching them “how to resist urges to smoke.” The researchers have published the results of several trials, each of which involved minor variations in design and frequency of booklet mailings. Here are some results:
|Results Of Moffitt-Based Clinical Trials Employing Self-Help Booklets|
|Publication, date||Main Outcome||Main Result|
|Addiction, 2015||Relapse prevention||No effect|
|American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2015||Abstinence||Booklets better|
|Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2016||Relapse prevention||No effect|
|Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2000||Relapse prevention||Booklets better|
The first study was conducted in Britain; the next two, in the U.S., were supported by National Cancer Institute grants totaling about $5 million over the period 2009-2013. According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine report, the booklets helped smokers abstain in one cessation trial. They were mailed to smokers at two rates, standard (8 booklets over 12 months) or intensive (10 over 18 months with other mailings on alternate months). The control group only received one booklet at the beginning of the trial. At 24 months, 19% of this group reported that they hadn’t smoked in the past week. The non-smoking rate was 24% in the control group and 30% (significantly higher) in the intensive group.
In 2000, Dr. Brandon reported that former smokers who received booklets had lower relapse rates than smokers who had access to a telephone hot line (12% vs. 35%).
Dr. Brandon has been quoted noting the relative merits of e-cigarettes compared to cigarettes (here), and Moffitt spokesman Simmons acknowledged, “We can say that it is very unlikely that they [e-cigarettes] are as harmful as regular tobacco cigarettes because you aren’t being exposed to the tar and the cancer-causing chemicals.”
In the current trial, the booklets are modified specifically for vapers, as reflected in the title, “If You Vape: Guide to Quitting Smoking”. However, the formal description of the study, as filed with the NIH (here), includes among its objectives producing tobacco abstinence among subjects and terminating “their e-cigarette use as per traditional nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).” One hopes that this study will not embrace the disease-treat-cure model for influencing consumer behavior (here and here).
Note: This post was updated with additional information on July 29, 2016.