A new study published in the highly regarded Lancet medical journal on Sunday has shown e-cigarettes are at least as good if not better than nicotine patches in helping smokers quit cigarettes. It also shows that out of those that did not quit 57% of people trying electronic cigarettes significantly reduced their cigarette consumption.
In the first study of its kind, researchers compared the effectiveness of electronic cigarettes in reducing smoking compared to nicotine patches. The results showed the level of success after 6 months was slightly higher than nicotine patches at 7.3% for electronic cigarettes and 5.8% for nicotine patches. It also showed that electronic cigarettes were far more likely to help smokers reduce their tobacco consumption with 57% of e-cigarette users significantly reducing the amount of cigarettes they smoked.
The study also noted that those using electronic cigarettes where much more enthusiast about using them and far more likely to recommend them to a friend of family member as a way of quitting smoking. Chris Bullen from New Zealand’s University of Auckland, who led the study commented “it certainly seems that e-cigarettes were more effective in helping smokers who didn’t quit to cut down”. “It’s also interesting that the people who took part in our study seemed to be much more enthusiastic about e-cigarettes than patches, as evidenced by the far greater proportion of people… who said they’d recommend them to family or friends.”
The study took 657 regular smokers who wanted to quit and gave a third an e-cigarette with 16mg nicotine, a third nicotine patches and the last third an e-cigarette with no nicotine. 5.7% of the participants had stopped smoking and the end of the 6 months with the group using electronic cigarettes having the highest success rate at 7.3%. Nicotine patches resulted in 5.8% while the 0mg nicotine e-cigarette resulted in 4.1%. The difference in the results were not statistically significant so the conclusion was electronic cigarettes where at least as effective as nicotine patches, a quit smoking method already recognized as effective in helping people quit.
The study also showed 57 percent of people using the electronic cigarettes had cut their smoking by at least half after six months, compared to just over 40 percent of the patches group.
Ann McNeill, a professor of tobacco addiction at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said the findings should persuade health experts to embrace e-cigarettes as a useful weapon in the battle against smoking.
“Electronic cigarettes are the most exciting new development in tobacco control over the last few decades as we have witnessed a rapid uptake of these much less harmful products by smokers,” she said. “The popularity of e-cigarettes suggests that we now have a product that can compete with cigarettes, thus heralding the first real possibility that cigarette smoking could be phased out.”
Around the world people have very contrasting views about electronic cigarettes. Some see them as a health revolution that could massively reduce the harm from tobacco smoking, the number one cause of avoidable illness in the world. While others have suggested they might encourage smoking and be a “gateway” device to cigarettes. There’s not yet evidence that that’s happening, Bullen says. “I don’t think that’s an inevitable pathway.” Efforts to regulate e-cigarettes could harm current smokers, he says. “For some people I think e-cigarettes will be part of the solution. But they’re not going to be a magic bullet.”
You can read the full study here.