E-cigarettes best bet to quit smoking

Grant Boone
February 2, 2019

A major new study provides the strongest evidence yet that vaping can help smokers quit cigarettes, with e-cigarettes proving almost twice as effective as nicotine gums and patches.

Smokers in the e-cigarette group received a $26 starter kit, while those in the nicotine-replacement group received a three-month supply of the product of their choice, costing about $159. Members of one group were given a conventional Nicotine Replacement Therapy of their choice (including combinations of products if they wanted it) while the other group were given a second-generation e-cigarette, a bottle of 18mg/ml liquid and advice on buying more juice. The culture in the United Kingdom surrounding smoking and e-cigarettes is also different from the U.S.

A total of 8.6% reported e-cigarettes as their first tobacco product, while 5.0% reported using another non-cigarette product first (3.3% reported using cigarettes first).

Doctors from the USA - where experts have tended to be more cautious about e-cigarettes than those in Britain - pointed out that even with e-cigarettes 82 per cent of people failed to give up smoking.

The study, which was published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, set out to determine which method is most effective for long-term smoking cessation: e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement methods like a patch, lozenge, or nasal spray.

A number of studies have shown that e-cigarettes contain a wide range of potentially toxic substances.

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).

Students said that they are using the device for all sorts of reasons, ranging from quitting smoking to a leisure activity, but the one thing that students agree on is that no matter their reason for trying it, getting hooked is very easy.

The success rate was still low - 18 percent among the e-cigarette group, compared to 9.9 percent among those using traditional nicotine replacement therapy - but many researchers who study tobacco and nicotine said it gave them the clear evidence they had been looking for.

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Ian Armitage was skeptical about e-cigarettes as a way to stop smoking, saying he tried vaping several years ago but gave it up after experiencing twitching and shakes from nicotine withdrawal.

By the one- and four-week point, people given e-cigarettes were less likely to feel a severe urge to smoke.

The recent enormous popularity of Juul e-cigarettes among teenagers probably has made vaping's influence even stronger among low-risk teens, Stokes added.

After one year the participants were assessed for smoking status, including biochemical tests to ensure that those who claimed to have quit smoking really had.

Electronic cigarettes, which have been available in the USA since about 2007 and have grown into a $6.6 billion-a-year industry, are battery-powered devices that typically heat a flavored nicotine solution into an inhalable vapor.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about e-cigarettes and teenagers.

Despite the impressive findings, Levy and the other experts Gizmodo spoke to said more research is still needed in the USA and elsewhere, using newer devices, before doctors here can wholeheartedly endorse vaping as a superior cessation aid over the standard treatment (likely with regular counseling to boot).

Because of the nature of the treatments, it wasn't possible to disguise from people whether they were using e-cigarettes or NRT products.

Annalisa Rogers, Director of the Smoking and Health Action Coalition of Monroe County says there is still a lot of research that needs to be done before they can recommend people to vape.

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