E-cigarettes 'as effective' as nicotine patches

Man smoking electronic cigarette Research shows e-cigarettes help people cut down, but they still divide opinion

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Electronic cigarettes appear to be at least as effective as nicotine patches in helping people to give up smoking, research suggests.

The devices, which are rapidly growing in popularity, produce a vapour containing nicotine.

The findings, presented at the European Respiratory Society, showed similar numbers quitting with e-cigarettes as patches, but more had cut down.

There was a call, however, for long-term data on safety.

As well as giving a nicotine hit, the e-cigarettes also mimic the sensory sensations of smoking. This has led to speculation that they may be a useful tool for people trying to quit.

A team at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, conducted the first clinical trial comparing the devices with nicotine patches in 657 people.

The results published in the Lancet showed 7.3% using e-cigarettes had quit after six months compared with 5.8% using patches. However, the study did not involve enough people to definitively prove which is the better option.

Start Quote

The key message is that in the context of minimum support, e-cigarettes are at least as effective as nicotine patches. ”

End Quote Prof Peter Hajek Queen Mary University of London

After six months, however, the 57% of e-cigarette users had halved the number of cigarettes smoked each day compared with 41% in those using patches.

'Increasing popularity'

Prof Chris Bullen, from the University of Auckland, said: "While our results don't show any clear-cut differences between e-cigarettes and patches in terms of 'quit success' after six months, it certainly seems that e-cigarettes were more effective in helping smokers who didn't quit to cut down.

"It's also interesting that the people who took part in our study seemed to be much more enthusiastic about e-cigarettes than patches.

"Given the increasing popularity of these devices in many countries, and the accompanying regulatory uncertainty and inconsistency, larger, longer-term trials are urgently needed to establish whether these devices might be able to fulfil their potential as effective and popular smoking cessation aids."

Regulations around the world are catching up with the surge in the popularity of e-cigarettes. The EU and the UK are both working towards regulating e-cigarettes in the same way as medicines.

The products also divide opinion with some arguing they normalise smoking and others saying they may help people to give up.

Prof Peter Hajek, the director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London, described the study as "pioneering".

"The key message is that in the context of minimum support, e-cigarettes are at least as effective as nicotine patches.

"E-cigarettes are also more attractive than patches to many smokers, and can be accessed in most countries without the restrictions around medicines that apply to nicotine replacement therapy or the costly involvement of health professionals.

"These advantages suggest that e-cigarettes have the potential to increase rates of smoking cessation and reduce costs to quitters and to health services."

However, he did call for longer-term studies into the consequences of using the devices.

You can hear more from Prof Chris Bullen on Discovery on the BBC World Service.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    The danger from smoking is the tar, which can cause blindness, limb amputations, COPD, and lung cancer. E-cigs are a way of ingesting nicotine without the tar, so allowing smokers to reduce nicotine cravings with a substantially reduced health risk. And no secondary smoking dangers, since no tar exhaled. I'm buying one today, as I have been told the tingling pains in my arms are due to smoking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    For me they worked. I tried everything before, patches, gum, Champix etc and none of them worked for me. Anyway, it turns out that I am actually addicted to smoking and not really the nicotine. E-Cigs have been a small revolution in that I can now still enjoy smoking and not suffer from the side effects. Won't work for everyone, but for me I have had no desire for tobacco since converting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I went to buy an e-cig but found out that you needed to use a bottle of nicotine to use it.. the bottle had warnings of 'danger of death' and you had to be careful not to spill on your skin.. as far as i was concerned this was more of a health issue than smoking especially having these devices around young children, the bottle was just soft plastic which could be chewed through easily... ban them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I Smoked for 40yrs, I tried to give up with patch's loads of times.... I started using an e~cig on xmas day 2012 and hav'nt had a real cig since, I started off on 18mg nicotine, im now down to 2mg nicotine, so another month and i'll be giving up the e~cig as well, result

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    E-cigarettes do seem to be a much cleaner way of nicotine delivery, however, you can't stop an addiction to nicotine by replacing it with nicotine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Although I've never smoked I know people that do & I know people trying to give up using e-cigarettes, one thing that concerns me is the bottles of liquid have a skull & crossbones printed on them. This has me wondering just how safe they are & if the vapor carries any nicotine.

    If the bottles have harmful ingredients then they should at the very least have childproof lids on them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    These look like a great idea if they're used for the intended purpose. However, I have been told that these are being used in some instances for substance abuse, but because people think they are being used by people trying to stop smoking they turn a blind eye not realising what's going on!

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    The only reason the UK and EU are moving so aggressively to start regulating these things is that Big Nanny doesn't like anything that lightens her fat purse, and the loss of taxes from cigarettes is a big one at a time when Nan needs it.

    These ecigarettes clearly help people to cut down; the gov are rank hypocrites for trying to control these things after condemning smoking for so long.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    you have to laugh at the anti smokers, they moan when we smoke tobacco, and guess what, the carry on with electronic cigarettes, if your not a smoker, then you don't know how hard it is to quit, these devices work 100% on stopping us, so quit moaning and go lobby the badgers

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    4. gogs: "these cigs are also a good deal more harmful than patches" - and your evidence for that statement is ...? (It's certainly not in the article)

    1.mrcynict4: "This research will have all the anti-smoking nutters up in arms." - No it won't. I loathe and detest smoking, but I think this research is good. Any means to get pathetic addicts to take their drugs without poisoning me is good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    But cigarettes are better than patches AND e-cigs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    It's so sad, you look at the photo and you can see all the signs of an addict getting a hit, yet people are saying, great, continue this. Any other addiction has everyone wanting to help the addict off the drug, yet nicotint addicts are encouraged a lot on HYS. Weird, folks.

    (I know you'll all mark me down, go on!)

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    If these e-cigarettes help smokers, then great! But......
    1) Can they be legally smoked in 'No-Smoking' areas?, and,
    2) Do people surrounding them suffer the same affects, i.e. secondary smoking?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    The thing I don't get is the need to start banning the use of e-cigarettes when indoors, or at football stadiums, like is being done now. People will scream "passive smoking" but to them I just say that they are jumping on the bandwagon of control. If these help smokers to be healthier, then why do people want to regulate them so much?

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    but is it free? is it cheaper? and the most important question of all: does it get the dishes done?

    @3. Frowny Face

    sorry I was busy earlier, woz having a fag outside.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Patches don't work for the many people who find the habitual and ritual elements of smoking much harder to break than the simple nicotine addiction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    all five smokers in my family have moved to e cigarette's, they have tried for years to stop with no avail, however not one of them has had a real cigarette since trying an e cigarette, our teeth are no longer brown our mouths are not burnt our hair is regaining its shine and the awful toxic smell associated with smoking has gone

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Anything that helps smokers stop is good, but these cigs are also a good deal more harmful than patches.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    @1 its been 6 hours and you are the first person to comment. I don't think anyone cares.

    This article hardly divides opinion. Why is it an HYS?

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    In other words, patches are as good as e-cigarettes, and a less damaging visual image ie don't attract youngsters to smoking. So use patches, why not?


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