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E-cigarettes twice as effective than gum or patches for quitting smoking

Monday, 4 February 2019

E-cigarettes "twice as effective" as nicotine gum, spray or patches for quitting smoking

New research has shown that vaping is more effective for quitting smoking than other forms of nicotine replacement therapy such as nicotine gum, nicotine sprays and nicotine patches.

The Story

The study was carried out by a team of researchers from Queen Mary University of London, King College London, London South Bank University, the University of York and Leicester City Council in the UK, as well as Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Centre in the USA. Their findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Research

Participants were 886 people who wanted help to stop smoking through NHS services. As of 2016, the smoking rates of adults in UK countries ranged from 15.5% in England, to 18.1% in Northern Ireland. The trial included only adult smokers who had no preference to whether they used nicotine patches, gum or sprays (NRT - nicotine replacement therapy) or e-cigs - so there was no bias from participants believing more strongly in the efficiency of one method over another. 

Researchers collected information from the participants about the participants use of tobacco, use of their quit-smoking method (vaping or NRT) and withdrawal symptoms. Those who claimed that they had stopped smoking after one year were asked to attend a carbon monoxide screening to confirm their claim.

The Results

After one year, the researchers found the following:

  • 78.8% of participants completed the follow-up
  • Those who used e-cigarettes had an 83% increased chance of quitting smoking than those who used NRT
  • Those using e-cigarettes reported less severe cigarette cravings
  • Those who used e-cigarettes reported that they coughed less
  • After one year, the amount of vapers who had successfully quit smoking was double that of NRT users

What It Means

The researchers said "refillable e-cigarettes had greater [effectiveness] than nicotine-replacement therapy, even though nicotine-replacement therapy was provided in combinations and under expert guidance". This study provides evidence that e-cigarettes could be more helpful to smokers who want to quit than other traditional methods of nicotine reduction.

The study was welcomed by Public Health England, who have said that stop-smoking services should welcome smokers who want to quit using e-cigarettes. 

Lead researcher Professor Peter Hajek, from Queen Mary University of London, said "This is the first trial to test the efficacy of modern e-cigarettes in helping smokers quit.

"E-cigarettes were almost twice as effective as the 'gold standard' combination of nicotine replacement products."

"Although a large number of smokers report that they have quit smoking successfully with the help of e-cigarettes, health professionals have been reluctant to recommend their use because of the lack of clear evidence from randomised controlled trials. This is now likely to change."

This is especially important when we consider that almost half of smokers think that vaping is more harmful than tobacco. Public Health England found that of the six million smokers in the UK, nearly half through vaping was just as bad or even worse than smoking, despite what healthcare bodies and experts say about vaping.

Professor John Newton, the Director of Health Improvement, said "It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about safety.

"We need to reassure smokers that switching to an e-cigarette would be much less harmful than smoking."

To help combat the vaping myth, Public Health England produced the following short video experiment demonstrating the effects of smoking vs. vaping:

Public Health Minister Steve Brine says "The evidence is clear that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking and they are the most popular quitting method in England. When paired with local stop-smoking services, they have some of the highest success rates."

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