by WorldTribune Staff, February 3, 2019
For smokers looking to kick the habit, e-cigarettes are twice as effective as nicotine patches or gum in helping them get there, a new study says.
The British study, reported last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that 18 percent of smokers who used vaping devices were able to quit the use of combustible cigarettes for one year, compared to 9.9 percent of people who used nicotine replacement therapies to quit.
“This is the first trial to test the efficacy of modern e-cigarettes in helping smokers quit,” said lead researcher Peter Hajek, a professor at Queen Mary University of London. “E-cigarettes were almost twice as effective as the ‘gold standard’ combination of nicotine replacement products.”
In the United States and Great Britain, cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death, taking some 480,000 lives each year in the U.S. and more than 100,000 in Britain.
“The UK specialist stop smoking services will now be more likely to include e-cigarettes among their treatment options, and health professionals will feel more comfortable in recommending e-cigarettes as a stop-smoking intervention,” said study author Dunja Przulj from Queen Mary University of London. “This may ultimately further accelerate the reduction in smoking and in smoking related diseases.”
According to Martin Dockrell, tobacco control lead at Public Health England, “this landmark research shows that switching to an e-cigarette can be one of the most effective ways to quit smoking, especially when combined with face-to-face support.”
The upside for vaping was its effectiveness in helping smokers stop using combustible cigarettes.
The downside, the study found, is that people who switched to e-cigarettes were far more likely to continue vaping, exchanging one nicotine delivery system for another without ever kicking the habit.
When researchers checked back after a year, they found that 80 percent of e-cigarette users who had managed to steer clear of combustible cigarettes were still vaping regularly.
The study randomly assigned 886 people in Great Britain who were looking to quit smoking. They received either a three-month supply of a nicotine replacement treatment of their choice – patches, gum, lozenges, sprays, inhalators, or a combination – or a vaping starter pack with one or two bottles of nicotine-containing liquid.
The vaping group was encouraged to buy future supplies in their own choice of nicotine strengths and flavors, which include fruit, candy and mint.
Counseling and behavioral support were offered once a week for at least a month.
An accompanying editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine urged caution.
“While e-cigarettes are ‘safer’ than traditional cigarettes, they are not without risks,” wrote Belinda Borrelli, professor of health policy at Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, and George O’Connor, professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.
The ongoing vaping habit among those in the e-cigarette arm of the study “raises concerns about the health consequences of long-term e-cigarette use,” the editorial added, noting that “e-cigarette vapor contains many toxins” though the levels and their effects are generally considered to be lower than those coming from cigarette smoke.
Another concern is vaping’s popularity with youths. The U.S. saw a 78 percent surge in e-cigarette use among high school students from 2017-2018, which the U.S. Surgeon General has described as an “epidemic.”
“Adult use may not only expose children to e-cigarette vapor but also models addictive behavior,” and boosts the risk that kids will take up combustible cigarettes themselves one day, the editorial said.