A new study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that e-cigarettes, when paired with "behavioural support", may be a more effective tool to quitting smoking than other nicotine replacement options.
The problem with translating drug research to a consumer product like e-cigarettes is that the strict protocols of a drug trial (all participants use a certain drug at a certain dose and interval) may not translate to products that succeed by offering a wide range of possibilities to users. And among participants who had issues with coughing and phlegm before the trial began, significantly fewer in the vaping group had those symptoms after a year.
While studies like these provide strong evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers quit, success rates in the real world are apt to be higher, since smokers can choose the products that work best for them rather than being randomly assigned to one.
After a year, 18 percent of the vapers were no longer smoking, compared to 9.9 percent of the NRT users.
A total of 8.6% reported e-cigarettes as their first tobacco product, while 5.0% reported using another non-cigarette product first (3.3% reported using cigarettes first). It seems likely that using a more enjoyable product makes people more likely to stick with it, and thus less likely to relapse to smoking.
Added Weaver: "The results of this study indicate that under these conditions, e-cigarettes improved the likelihood of quitting smoking".
Between the first and final waves, the researchers determined 6.1 percent of kids who had never used a tobacco product had smoked a cigarette at least once, and 2.1 percent were current smokers.
"We know that patients are asking about e-cigarettes and many doctors haven't been sure what to say", said Dr. Nancy Rigotti, a tobacco treatment specialist at Harvard Medical School who was not involved in the study.
Ian Armitage was skeptical about e-cigarettes as a way to stop smoking, saying he tried vaping several years ago but gave it up after experiencing twitching and shakes from nicotine withdrawal. After all, not only are e-cigarettes helping people quit, they are 95 percent less harmful than traditional cigarettes. And even though the study participants who attempted to quit by vaping were given the choice of just one product, the results were impressive.
"You may be more likely to be offered a cigarette, and you may be more exposed to tobacco industry marketing", Stokes said.
"Vaping is a far less harmful alternative for smokers who are unable to quit and has helped millions of smokers quit overseas", ATHRA chairman, Conjoint Associate Professor Colin Mendelsohn, said.
That might not seem like a huge success rate, but it's notoriously hard to quit smoking.
In the British study group, a total of 79 smokers were enrolled in an "e-cig group" and given a refillable e-cigarette to use.
"This is great news for cigarette smokers who want to quit", said Richard Miech, from the University of MI in the United States who has studied e-cigarettes but was not involved in this trial. Those devices have largely been overtaken in the U.S.by Juul and similar devices that have prefilled nicotine cartridges, or pods. The remaining 44 smokers were given a three-month supply of any approved nicotine replacement product they wanted.
Because of the nature of the treatments, it wasn't possible to disguise from people whether they were using e-cigarettes or NRT products. Any benefit of e-cigarettes depends on the individual product and how it is used, he said.