Research Findings: How Quitlines Can Help People Who Use E-cigarettes, Too

Findings from a new study published in The Wisconsin Medical Journal indicate that 80 percent of people who use e-cigarettes and call into tobacco quitlines are interested in quitting, making quitlines a key player in the little-understood process of helping people who use e-cigarettes quit.

Dr. Brian Williams
Dr. Brian Williams

“In the traditional cigarette world,” said Dr. Brian Williams, the study’s lead author, “we’ve seen a consistent, steady decline in use. People are quitting every year, and that is incredible progress.

“At the same point, we’re seeing a marked increase e-cigarette use, especially among young adults and adolescents.”

Understanding of how to help people who use e-cigarettes to quit has remained limited. This study sought to fill in the gaps by collecting data on people who use e-cigarettes who called the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line.

“I am both intrigued and concerned by these trends and how little we know about helping young people quit vaping,” said Williams. “This research comes from an interest in filling those gaps in our knowledge.”

Between July 2016 and November 2020, 26,705 calls were made to the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit-Line. Eleven percent (a little under 3,000) of the callers used e-cigarettes.

Vaping was most pronounced among young adults aged 18-24: Thirty percent of the 730 18- to 24-year-old callers reported vaping during the four-year study period, with usage spiking to nearly 50 percent in 2019.

Young man vapingOnly 53.5% of these young adults used e-cigarettes to cut down on their tobacco consumption.

“We can see how young people engage with e-cigarettes differently than adults,” said Williams. “Most adults who vape are dual users, meaning they both vape and smoke traditional cigarettes.”

Those in the 18-24 age range, on the other hand, are seldom dual users. They only vape.

“This discrepancy reveals a need for more targeted outreach, for more research into helping a population that is oftentimes hard to engage in treatment.”

However, 80 percent of all the callers who reported using e-cigarettes cited a desire to quit. Despite the limited understanding of how to help people quit vaping, one thing is clear: quitlines are in an excellent position to reach those who want to quit vaping.

“We have this great cessation tool in the Quitline,” said Williams, “but this is an area of a lot of need and little data. We want to encourage and motivate young adults, let them know that quitting can improve their health, but first we need to have the tools to actually help them.

“With more intervention and studies, I believe we can get there.”

Williams BS, Piper ME, Piasecki T, Kaye J, Fiore MC. (2023) Trends in E-Cigarette Use in Callers to the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line. Wisconsin Medical Journal. Online February 28, 2023.