(RxWiki News) Electronic cigarettes are becoming a popular new way to help people quit smoking. But are they fixing the problem? Or just making tobacco more popular?
A recent study found that people who tried to quit smoking by using electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, had more success at abstaining from smoking tobacco compared to people who used nicotine replacement therapy or quit "cold turkey" (with no help).
"Ask your doctor for help to quit smoking."
The lead author of this study was Jamie Brown, SSA Research Fellow from the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Center and the Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology at University College London.
The study included 5,863 adult smokers who were surveyed about their smoking habits in England between July 2009 and February 2014.
All of the participants smoked cigarettes or other tobacco products daily or occasionally in the 12 months before being surveyed, and had made at least one attempt to quit smoking during that time.
A total of 464 participants used e-cigs to try to quit, 1,922 participants used over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy (such as a patch or gum), and 3,477 participants did not use anything to help them quit.
The researchers asked the participants to self-report if, and how long, they had been able to abstain from tobacco from the first quit attempt to the time of the survey.
The findings showed that 20 percent of the e-cig users reported that they had been able to abstain from smoking tobacco, compared with 10 percent of the participants who used nicotine replacement therapy and 15 percent of the participants who did not use anything to help them quit.
The participants who used e-cigs were 60 percent more likely to successfully abstain from smoking compared to the participants who tried to quit with the help of nicotine replacement therapy.
Compared to the participants who did not use any help at all, those who used e-cigs were 61 percent more likely to successfully abstain from smoking.
The researchers discovered that time since the quit attempt started, year of survey, age, gender, abrupt versus gradual quitting, prior quit attempts in the same year, and nicotine dependence did not significantly affect the e-cig user's higher likelihood of staying quit.
The researchers concluded that for people who attempted to quit smoking without professional help, those who used e-cigs had the greatest odds of successfully quitting tobacco.
"E-cigarettes could substantially improve public health because of their widespread appeal and the huge health gains associated with stopping smoking," said co-author Robert West, PhD, from University College London’s Department of Epidemiology & Public Health.
There were a few limitations to this study. The participants self-reported whether or not they abstained from tobacco, and the researchers only considered data about the 12 months prior to the survey.
Also, there are many different types of nicotine replacement therapies and e-cigs, and the prevalence of e-cigs in England increased over the study period.
This study was published on May 20 in Addiction.
The UK Society for the Study of Addiction, Cancer Research UK, the Department of Health, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Johnson and Johnson provided funding.
The study's authors made several disclosures of potential competing interests, including with Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and other pharmaceutical that develop and manufacture smoking cessation medications. These authors specifically noted that they had no financial relationships with any electronic cigarette companies.