Study: E-cigarettes Best at Helping Smokers Kick the Habit

The New England Journal of Medicine finds that e-cigarettes help smokers quit better than other products.
February 07, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – According to a new study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, e-cigarette smokers kicked the habit at double of the rate of standard nicotine replacement therapies.

Everydayhealth.com reports that researchers at London’s Queen Mary University divided smokers into two groups: One that followed a program to stop smoking using electronic cigarettes, and another that received nicotine-replacement products of their choice, including skin patches, gum, lozenges, sprays, inhalators or a combination of these.

At the end of a year, 18% of those in the e-cigarette group (79 people) had quit smoking, compared with 9.9% in the nicotine-replacement group (44 people).

“Doctors can advise smokers that there is now evidence that e-cigarettes can help smokers quit,” says Peter Hajek, professor of clinical psychology and director of the health and lifestyle research unit at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Queen Mary University.

Dr. Hajek and his colleagues noted that rates of not smoking were higher among the e-cigarette users at all points during the study. Also, more of the e-cigarette users reduced their regular cigarette smoking by at least half (12.8% versus 7.4%). E-cigarette users reported having less severe urges to smoke, fewer withdrawal symptoms and seemed better able to adjust nicotine levels to meet their needs.

Although they indicated having more throat and mouth irritation (65.4% versus 50.8%), e-cigarette users reported having less coughing and phlegm after a year. There were no significant differences in the incidence of wheezing or shortness of breath between the groups.

Trial participants had previously smoked an average of 15 cigarettes per day. Their cessation treatment included weekly behavioral support for at least four weeks. The nicotine-replacement participants received supplies for up to three months, and researchers encouraged them to use combinations of treatment, typically the patch and a faster-acting oral product.

The e-cigarette subjects were given a refillable e-cigarette, plus one or two bottles of nicotine e-liquid. They were encouraged to buy future supplies, choosing their own strengths and flavors.

The scientists recognize that the rate of continuing e-cigarette use was “fairly high.” Of the 79 e-cigarette users who stopped smoking after a year, 80% were still using e-cigarettes, while only 9 of the 44 in the other group continued using nicotine replacement.

Researchers now see e-cigarettes as a more effective means to stop smoking compared with nicotine-replacement therapy, but they believe more research is needed. “There are strong signals that e-cigarettes and other low-risk nicotine products are accelerating the demise of smoking, but the full picture has not yet been comprehensibly mapped,” Hajek said.

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