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A study published in June 2022 in Nicotine and Tobacco Research looked at how nicotine dependence changes among cigarette smokers when using an e-cigarette as a tool of smoking cessation, or at least smoking reduction. The study was performed by researchers at Penn State College of Medicine who study e-cigarettes and their effectiveness at helping nicotine users stop or reduce their smoking habit.

Researchers enrolled 520 participants in the study, all of whom were interested in reducing their cigarette intake but lacked a plan to do so. The participants randomly received a high-strength nicotine e-cigarette (36mg/mL), a low-strength nicotine e-cigarette (8mg/mL), a nicotine-free vape, or a tobacco-free cigarette substitute, and were instructed by researchers to use their product to reduce their cigarette consumption. Participant data was collected after the six-month study period.

A summary of findings can be found below. The full study can be read here.

Key Findings:

  • The results of the study “suggest that using e-cigarettes or a substitute to reduce cigarette consumption can result in reduction of self-reported cigarette use and dependence”. (Penn State Press Release)
  • Participants who used the high-strength nicotine e-cigarette reduced their intake significantly more than participants using any of the other products.
  • “Using a high concentration e-cigarette did not result in greater total dependence” of nicotine at the conclusion of the study. The researchers labelled this finding as “important”.

The data presented in this study must be considered when policy makers consider limiting nicotine content in e-cigarettes. Across the U.S., states have considered and implemented these nicotine caps, disregarding the harm that they cause to smoking populations.

Nicotine caps have been implemented internationally as well. In 2021, Canada implemented a new policy banning retailers from selling nicotine products with 20mg/mL of nicotine. This proposal was identical to a limit imposed in the UK that correlated with smoking rates increasing for the first time in decades. By depriving Canadian and British smokers from accessing the high-strength nicotine vapes that this study shows are most effective at helping people quit cigarettes, lawmakers in these countries are preventing millions of lives from being saved.

Tobacco kills more than 8 million people each year across the world. Adult access to nicotine vapes, especially high-strength ones, is crucial for reducing this death toll and must be protected from misguided lawmakers.