Looks like vapes aren't that helpful for quitting actual cigarettes

A new study finds that e-cigarettes are not the magic bullet vape companies promised.

Young girl at home smoking electronic cigarette and online banking on mobile phone
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During my senior year of college, it seemed like every other person was Juuling. A close friend had replaced her weekly pack of cigarettes with a mint-flavored vape that looked like a cute USB drive from the future. She carried that thing around with her everywhere, swearing by its effectiveness. This, we believed, was the magic bullet that would end her cigarette habit for good — and it seemed like everywhere we looked, the media confirmed it.

In the end, the Juul didn’t replace my friend’s tobacco use but simply became another thing she could smoke once her 20-pack ran out. But she wasn’t the only one failed by the promise of the e-cig. According to a new study, electronic cigarettes don’t seem to be an effective tool for most people who want to quit smoking, CNN reported.

The longitudinal study, which was published on Tuesday in JAMA Network Open, is the first of its kind to look at whether e-cigarettes actually help smokers transition out of their cigarette habits — a.k.a., the promise vaping companies have been making for years. Thirteen thousand smokers were surveyed and the results were damning: People who transitioned to e-cigarettes or other alternative tobacco products (such as hookah, pipes, or cigars) were actually 8.5% more likely to go back to cigarettes than people who just did away with nicotine altogether.

Although the findings didn’t specify how some people were able to quit their cigarette habit, the majority of people who did weren’t those who transitioned to e-cigs. This study is just the latest evidence of how the promise of vaping has only continued to devolve as we gather more information.

At this point, it shouldn’t come as a shock that the e-cig industry overstated claims that their products could help wean people from cigarettes. These days, I try to be skeptical of any products that are sold as a solution to problems that are as multifaceted as a dependency on tobacco. Plus, in the case of e-cigarettes, the technology is still too new to know how safe it is for people’s long- term health.

This, of course, begs the question of why we were promised it would help end young people’s addiction to cigarettes. I’m personally still furious about 2019, when people were hospitalized and dropped dead because it turned out that vitamin E acetate, one of the products commonly laced into vapes, caused severe lung damage. Luckily, we’re catching up to the reality that electronic cigarettes aren’t going to solve the world’s problems, and last month, the FDA ordered that 5 million e-cigarette products be taken off the market.

Everybody’s journey to quitting cigarettes looks different, and I don’t want to discount the experiences of those who were able to quit by switching to e-cigs. Still, we should know by now that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.