E-cigarettes 'twice as good' at helping smokers quit compared to traditional methods, NHS study finds
03 February, 2019, 20:09
A study published earlier this week in the New England Journal of Medicine found e-cigarettes are nearly twice as effective at helping cigarette smokers quit as other nicotine-replacement therapies. And even though the study participants who attempted to quit by vaping were given the choice of just one product, the results were impressive. They were also asked questions created to illuminate how prone they were toward risky behaviors and sensation-seeking.
For the roughly 15% of Americans who smoke, the US Food and Drug Administration has not approved e-cigs as a means for quitting.
The British research, published Wednesday in the NewEngland Journal of Medicine, could influence what doctors tell their patients and shape the debate in the US, where the Food and Drug Administration has come under pressure to more tightly regulate the burgeoning industry amid a surge in teenage vaping.
Funding for the study came from the British government, which has embraced e-cigarettes as a potential tool to combat smoking through state-run health services.
"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".
"If you have a method of helping people with smoking cessation that is both more effective and less costly, that should be of great interest to anyone providing health services, " said Kenneth Warner, a retired University of MI public health professor who was not involved in the study. Second-hand smoke from cigarettes has always been recognized as a health issue.
The researchers added that the reasons e-cigarettes were found to be more effective could be because of better tailoring of nicotine dose.
No vaping company has announced plans to seek FDA approval of its products as a quit-smoking aid.
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A higher proportion of those who used the devices experienced mouth and throat irritation (65 percent v 51 percent), although people using the nicotine-replacement treatments were more likely to report nausea (38 percent v 31 percent).
But in an email exchange with MedPage Today, Berry explained that numerous prior studies may have been subject to methodological limitations because they started with a sample of youth who were never cigarette users, assessed their e-cigarette use at that early time point, and then reviewed their smoking status after a year of follow-up.
Several recent studies have raised the alarm about an elevated risk of smoking initiation among teen e-cigarette users, including a 2017 meta-analysis that found that teens and young adults who used e-cigarettes had more than three times the odds of later cigarette use and more than four times the odds of current cigarette smoking.
Legalise Vaping Australia campaign director Brian Marlow said more than 55 scientific studies showed vaping was less harmful than cigarettes and could help people quit smoking. The e-cigarette users were also more likely to cut down their smoking by 50 per cent or more, even if they didn't quit entirely.
The FDA has largely taken a hands-off approach toward vaping.
"The study was performed under medical supervision and with medical behavioural support of the smokers that tried to quit", Jordt, who is not affiliated with the research, said.
This analysis led the National Academies of Sciences to conclude in a 2018 report that there is "substantial evidence" that e-cigarette use increases the risk for cigarette-smoking tobacco-naive youth. It has not scientifically reviewed any of the e-cigarettes on the market and has put off some key regulations until 2022.
'Evidence of effectiveness must be balanced against the short-term and long-term safety of e-cigarettes. Those devices have largely been overtaken in the U.S.by Juul and similar devices that have prefilled nicotine cartridges, or pods. Ideally, you'd want people to wean themselves off the nicotine and the potentially harmful toxins provided by e-cigarettes. "I still wanted a cigarette afterward".