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Pregnant women should consider e-cigarettes to help quit smoking

Pregnant women should consider e-cigarettes to help quit smoking

Vaping may offer an alternative for pregnant women who want to stop smoking, allowing them to quit safely and reducing the risk of low birth rate, according to a new study led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

Current guidelines suggest that pregnant smokers trying to stop should be offered nicotine replacement products such as patches and advised of stop-smoking services, but the new research suggests that e-cigarettes could be a better alternative.

Funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), the research is published in NIHR Journals Library.

Smoking during pregnancy is known to cause harm to the baby and can result in low birth weights, which are associated with poorer health outcomes in later life. Current guidelines suggest that pregnant women finding it hard to stop smoking during pregnancy should be given nicotine replacement products such as nicotine patches and advised about stop-smoking services.

E-cigarettes, which offer an alternative, allow the smoker to inhale nicotine in a vapour rather than as smoke and do not burn tobacco or produce carbon monoxide, two of the most damaging elements in tobacco smoke.

The researchers looked at a group of 1,140 pregnant women who were trying to quit smoking. Half of the women were given nicotine patches, and the other half received e-cigarettes. At the end of their pregnancy, the women reported whether they had quit smoking. The outcomes for the babies were also recorded, including low birth weight, baby intensive care admissions, miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature birth.

Both the nicotine patches and the e-cigarettes were found to be equally safe. However, the women who were quitting through vaping had fewer babies with low birth weight (defined as below 2,500 grams). The researchers believe this variation was because e-cigarettes were more effective in reducing the use of conventional cigarettes.

Amongst the women who had successfully quit using the assigned products, almost twice as many had successfully stopped smoking through vaping compared to those who used only nicotine patches.

The researchers believe that e-cigarettes make it easier for people to quit because they offer smokers a variety of strengths and flavours and make the transition easier, offering advantages over other products such as nicotine gum and patches.

Professor Peter Hajek, Director of Health and lifestyle Research Unit at QMUL, said: ‘E-cigarettes seem more effective than nicotine patches in helping pregnant women to quit smoking and because of this, they seem to also lead to better pregnancy outcomes. The evidence-based advice to smokers already includes, among other options, a recommendation to switch from smoking to e-cigarettes. Such a recommendation can now be extended to smokers who are pregnant as well.’


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