En español | While there’s no conclusive evidence that vaping helps people quit smoking, many older smokers are switching to it, usually in the form of e-cigarettes, as a way to reduce their tobacco intake.
Public health officials, however, are divided over vaping’s benefits for older smokers. Some say it reduces the harm of smoking and it's better than doing nothing.
A recent study, published in the journal Tobacco Control, estimated under a best-case scenario that if cigarette smokers switched to vaping over 10 years, there would be 6.6 million fewer premature deaths and 86.7 million fewer years of life lost.
“Old policies need to be supplemented with policies that encourage substituting e-cigarettes for the far more deadly cigarettes,” said David Levy, a professor of oncology at Georgetown University's School of Medicine and the leader of the study.
Many consumers have put that suggestion into practice. Jeannie Cox, a retired secretary in Tennessee who's in her 70s, had been smoking two packs a day for decades. Then she started vaping and hasn’t had a regular cigarette in more than four years, she told the New York Times.
Still, ongoing controversy over vaping has prevented many public health advocates from giving their blessing to this alternative to traditional smokes. The Food and Drug Administration plans to regulate e-cigarettes in 2022, and in the meantime, the industry isn’t allowed to advertise its products as safer than cigarettes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 8.4 percent of adults 65 and older smoke.