e-Cigarettes Twice More Effective in Helping Smokers to Quit Smoking

Study shows the e-cigarettes are twice more effective than nicotine-replacement therapy in helping smokers to quit smoking.

Smoking is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Smoking can cause a variety of respiratory diseases by damaging airways and small air sacs found in our lungs and it is also responsible for most cases of lung cancer. Cigarettes contain toxic chemicals like carbon monoxide and tar which are very harmful for human health. Smoking is very addictive because of nicotine, the chief substance found in tobacco. Quitting smoking isa physically, mentally and emotional challenging task. Less than 5 percent smokers are able to quit smoking by going cold turkey. But for the majority, even trying to quit can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, irritability, moodiness and smokers tend to fall back on smoking again.

An e-cigarette

An electronic cigarette (e-cigarette)is adevice which emits nicotineas vapor or mist for the user to inhale providing a similar sensation to inhaling tobacco smoke from a real cigarette. E-cigarettes are smokeless cigarettes, which look like real cigarettes but do not light. They are being discussed as analternative method to consume nicotine minus harmful chemicals found in real cigarettes. E-cigarettes are now a part of deaddiction mechanisms which helps smokers in quitting. However, not much research has been done to validate this claim while some other studies have shown the ill effects of using e-cigarettes. Two previous randomized controlled trials on e-cigarettes had shown that firstly, e-cigarettes may be slightly effective in helping toquit smoking by working similar to nicotine patches. Secondly, smokers using e-cigarettes with or without nicotine can help them to stay away from conventional cigarettes. These evidences haven’t been very conclusive and the e-cigarettes debate is still open.

Can using e-cigarettes help smokers to quit?

In a new study published in New England Journal of Medicine, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in helping smokers to quit. This is a first randomized controlled trial which aimed to check the effectiveness of modern e-cigarettes versus nicotine replacement products. A total of 886 participants were enrolled for the trail who were part of UK’s free National Health Services ‘stop smoking’ program and they were randomly assigned two treatment groups. The first group was given a free e-cigarette starter pack, along with a manual to use it, a bottle of tobacco-flavored nicotine vaping liquids and three more e-liquids of their choice to buy in the future. The second groupwere asked to use their choice of nicotine-replacement product like patches, lozenges or chewing gum, for a period of three months. Additionally, both these groups also received a weekly face to face counseling on quitting smoking and all participants were tracked for one year. Researchers found that 18 percent of smokers using e-cigarettes were smoke-free after a year compared to 9.9 percent users taking the nicotine-replacement therapy. So, e-cigarette therapy was twice more effective asin helping smokers to quit compared to nicotine-replacement therapy.

Both the groups claimed that e-cigarettes and nicotine-replacement products were both unsatisfying compared to real cigarettes. However, e-cigarettes group rated their deviceas more satisfying and useful compared to the nicotine-replacement group. E-cigarette group showed more occurrence of mouth irritation but had reduced coughing and phlegm while nicotine-replacement group experienced more nausea as side effects. The most important observation was that 80 percent participants in the e-cigarettes group who had successfully quit smoking were still using e-cigarettes at the end of one year compared to only 9 percent from the nicotine-replacement group. This clearly indicated that e-cigarette group participants definitely developed a habit of using them.

The current study is limited to UK, so conclusions cannot be generalized at this point of time as societal and cultural context will vary for every country. Also, most countriesdo not have guidance or counselling as part of the quittingprogram. E-cigarettes have been marked controversial as many studies have shown their negative effects on one’s health. Any possible harms of using e-cigarettes needs to be taken into account especially in younger impressionable population because young people’sbodies and brain are still developing making them more vulnerable to the effects of nicotine.


{You may read the original detailed paper by clicking the DOI link given below in the list of cited source(s)}


Hajek P et al. 2019. A Randomized Trial of E-Cigarettes versus Nicotine-Replacement Therapy. N Engl J Med. . 380.

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