(RxWiki News) It's tough to kick the smoking habit, but electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) may help.
A new study that reviewed research on e-cigs published between 2004 and 2014 found encouraging results. Quit rates were up and the number of conventional cigarettes smoked was down in tobacco smokers who used e-cigs.
"None of the studies in this review found that smokers who used electronic cigarettes short-term (2 years or less) had an increased health risk compared to smokers who did not use electronic cigarettes," said study author Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, MA, of the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, in a press statement.
The lead author on the review was Hayden McRobbie, PhD, of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University of London in the UK.
E-cigs use a heating element to vaporize a nicotine solution. Users then inhale that nicotine vapor. Nicotine is the primary addictive chemical in tobacco.
Dr. McRobbie and team combined the results of two studies that involved more than 600 conventional cigarette smokers. Some of the participants were given normal e-cigs, and some were given an e-cig that produced vapor but delivered no nicotine.
Using a normal e-cig helped 36 percent of the smokers reduce the number of conventional cigarettes they smoked by about half. About 28 percent of those who smoked the fake e-cigs without nicotine cut the number of cigarettes they smoked by about half.
More e-cig smokers (9 percent) had quit smoking altogether up to a year later than those who used the e-cigs without nicotine (4 percent).
Dr. McRobbie and colleagues found that e-cig smokers were more apt to decrease the number of regular cigarettes they smoked than users of the nicotine patch. But the studies could not tell whether e-cigs helped more people quit smoking than nicotine patches. A nicotine patch is a patch placed on the skin that delivers nicotine to the blood stream.
This study was published Dec. 16 in the Cochrane Library.
Dr. McRobbie participated in educational sessions by Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. Another review author, Dr. Peter Hajek, acted as a consultant to GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. Those companies make smoking-cessation products.