E-cigarettes and quitting smoking – expert responds

People attempting to quit smoking without professional help are approximately 60% more likely to report succeeding if they use electronic cigarettes than if they use willpower alone or over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies such as patches or gum, according to new UK research.

File:Cig a like-- 2013-10-21 03-47.jpgThe study, published in Addiction, surveyed almost 6,000 smokers between 2009 and 2014 who had attempted to quit smoking without the aid of prescription medication or professional support.

“E-cigarettes could substantially improve public health because of their widespread appeal and the huge health gains associated with stopping smoking,” says Professor Robert West of UCL’s Department of Epidemiology & Public Health, senior author of the study.

Read more about the research here.

The research follows on from a clinical trial of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation, undertaken by the University of Auckland last year and published in the Lancet, which found the devices were roughly as effective as nicotine patches in aiding smokers to give up tobacco.

The Science Media Centre collected the following expert commentary. Feel free to use these quotes in your reporting. If you would like to contact a New Zealand expert, please contact the SMC (04 499 5476; smc@sciencemediacentre.co.nz).

Dr Brent Caldwell, Senior Research Fellow, University of Otago Wellington, comments:

“Recent evidence from the UK Smoking Toolkit study has demonstrated that even after controlling for potential confounders, smokers who had used e-cigs were 63% more likely to achieve abstinence than smokers who had purchased standard nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) over-the-counter, and 61% more likely than those who tried to quit without e-cigs or NRT. While this study excluded smokers who had used behavioural support, the findings are relevant because many smokers try to quit without behavioural support, and it is important for them to know which methods would be most effective for them to use.

“The New Zealand government has adopted a precautionary approach and banned the sale of e-cigs that contain nicotine within New Zealand, because none of the e-cig manufacturers have proven that the vapour that their e-cigs emit meets pharmaceutical grade standards. It is now up to e-cig manufacturers to prove that their e-cig vapours are safe and contain exactly what they say they contain and nothing else, just like all other manufacturers of NRT have to do. Until then, smokers who want to try NRTs that have been proven to be safe and more effective than nicotine patches and nicotine gum, should use the QuickMist mouthspray, Nicorette inhalator, or nicotine lozenges.

“The QuickMist and inhalator have been by far and away the most popular therapies that smokers have chosen to use in a trial which offers smokers access to highly subsidised NRTs at community locations in the lower North Island. Smokers who would like to take part in this trial can access it at the Westfield Queensgate mall in Lower Hutt (7 days per week), North City mall in Porirua (Thursdays and Saturdays), and can visit www.otago.ac.nz/enjoy to find the locations in Palmerston North, Levin, and Dannevirke.”