By Kim Polacek
Love them or hate them, e-cigarettes are proving to be the best option for helping smokers kick the habit. A new study published this week in The New England Journal of Medicine found that e-cigarettes are almost twice as effective at helping smokers quit than traditional nicotine-replacement therapies, such as nicotine patches, gum and lozenges.
The study followed nearly 900 smokers in the United Kingdom who were randomly assigned to two groups. One group was given a three-month supply of traditional nicotine-replacement products. The other group was given an e-cigarette starter pack with information on how to buy supplies when needed. Both groups also received one-on-one weekly counseling for one month.
After one year, the participants were tested to verify they had quit smoking. The results showed that 18 percent (79 people) from the e-cigarette group had not smoked traditional cigarettes over the past year, compared to 10 percent (44 people) in the traditional nicotine-replacement therapy group. The successful nonsmokers reported differences in continued use of cessation tools. Among those who had been provided nicotine-replacement products, nine percent (four people) were still using the patch or gum after one year. A clear majority – 80 percent – of those who had used e-cigarettes to successfully quit were still using them at the one year mark. Though they continued to ingest nicotine via e-cigarettes, they were no longer exposed to harmful chemicals known to exist in smoke from combustible cigarettes.
Dr. Thomas Brandon, a leading tobacco researcher and chair of Moffitt’s Department of Health Outcomes and Behavior commented on the importance of this study. “This is the largest and best study to date showing that e-cigarettes can help smokers quit traditional cigarettes,” he said. “The results are consistent with other types of research indicating the same thing.”
Dr. Brandon believes that the benefit of e-cigarettes to smokers must be considered in the public health debate about e-cigarettes. “Because half of all smokers will be killed by their cigarettes, anything that helps them quit smoking has tremendous potential to save lives. E-cigarettes appear to be far safer than smoking, so we should encourage smokers to switch to vaping.”