Though recent headlines insist that vaping is almost twice as effective than alternatives, that doesn’t mean it’s especially effective.

Here’s another instance where research seems to leave us  with a “yes, but…” answer. I’ll explain.

In the recent analysis, vaping did appear to yield better results, at least in terms of abstinence from cigarettes at one year, versus gum or patch. Subjects did stick with the e-device longer than with the alternatives. Perhaps for that reason, they were more likely to be nonsmokers when the year ended.

One explanation: Vaping doesn’t require much in the way of lifestyle change. You don’t have to give up smoking, just tobacco. You still puff away to get a hit of nicotine, sometimes to a greater extent than previously. Only now, as a fun article in Men’s Health described it, “… where I once belched noxious, girlfriend-repelling, shirt-stinking tobacco fumes, I was now puffing crème brûlée-scented fog clouds.”

An improvement, I guess. Socially-speaking.

The switch from Marlboro to Juul requires little in the way of behavior modification. You stop carrying Altoids, for example. But the conditioning process continues. You’re still reinforcing the behavior patterns associated with smoking. If you decide to switch back at some point, that won’t feel like much of a shift, either.

By the way, those who vape report a perceptible “hit” from e-smoking that they don’t get with gum or patch. Still not a Camel, but much closer. I imagine that’s because absorption through the massive surface of the lungs is a faster way to deliver nicotine to the brain. I’m told a single Juul cartridge is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes. So there’s plenty left for another hit.

An important consideration: Although vaping was more effective than the alternatives, the difference isn’t a huge one. — an 18% success rate for e-devices, versus 10% for the others. Four in five vapers were back on cigarettes at year’s end.

My guess: Many who vape continue to alternate vaping with good old fashioned cigarette smoking. So they’re smoking fewer cigarettes, but they haven’t actually quit smoking.

Which could be considered progress, health-wise at least. I’m wondering if researchers may change the outcome measures to reflect this rather than focusing on abstinence — a scientific process I sometimes refer to as redefining success to include failure.

Just kidding. If you’re a smoker looking to quit, good for you, and good luck. I had my last cigarette years before there were options to simply quitting. Fortunately, that works too.

Here’s that Men’s Health article on one smoker’s experience with vaping. An entertaining read.

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