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Study shows e-cigarettes are an effective stop-smoking aid

Study shows e-cigarettes are an effective stop-smoking aid

E-cigarettes are an effective way for smokers to stop smoking, a European study suggests.

The addition of nicotine e-cigarettes to standard smoking-cessation counselling can nearly double cessation rates compared with counselling alone.

The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, also provide further insights into the safety profile of e-cigarette use for smoking cessation.

Electronic nicotine-delivery systems, known as e-cigarettes, are used by some tobacco smokers to assist with quitting. Evidence regarding the efficacy and safety of these systems is needed, and the benefits of e-cigarettes are unproven.

The researchers undertook a randomised trial at various sites across Switzerland, involving 1,246 adults. All participants smoked at least five cigarettes a day for at least 12 months prior to the study. An intervention group received free e-cigarettes and free e-liquid for six months in addition to standard cessation counselling. A control group undertook the same counselling but also received a voucher, which they could use for anything, including nicotine replacement therapy.

Among adult tobacco smokers, those who received standard e-cigarettes plus cessation counselling were more likely to achieve continuous abstinence from tobacco smoking compared to those who received standard counselling alone. At six months, 28.9 per cent of the intervention group were no longer using tobacco compared to 16.3 per cent of the control group.

Commenting on the study, Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, Assistant Professor of health policy and management, University of Massachusetts Amherst, said: ‘This new study clearly shows that nicotine e-cigarettes can help people to stop smoking. It adds to a strong and consistent body of evidence supporting the use of nicotine e-cigarettes as a stop smoking aid.’

She added: ‘Though not risk-free, e-cigarettes are considerably less harmful than smoking. Most adults who smoke want to quit, but some find it very difficult to do so – we should welcome evidence on ways to help people make this important step towards improving their health.’

A secondary outcome of the study showed that the proportion of participants not using nicotine at six months was highest in the control group. Over a third of the control group were not using any nicotine products at six months. Among the intervention group, only a fifth of the participants were not using any nicotine products at six months.

Commenting on the safety of using e-cigarettes, Professor Lion Shahab, Professor of health psychology and co-director of the UCL Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group at University College London (UCL), said: ‘Despite the fact that the control intervention was standard-of-care smoking cessation counselling with very little use of e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy at six-month follow-up, compared with half of intervention participants still using e-cigarettes, no differences in respiratory symptoms were observed between the intervention and control group.’


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