Tuesday, April 02, 2013

New Study Documents Effectiveness of Electronic Cigarettes for Smoking Cessation Among 1,000 Ex-Smokers

Anti-smoking groups and advocates continue to argue that there is no evidence that electronic cigarettes can be helpful in smoking cessation, but according to a new study published in the journal Addiction, there are at least 1,000 ex-smokers who would beg to differ. The article reports the results of a survey of committed e-cigarette users, recruited from two e-cigarette company web sites, and finds that these devices were highly successful in helping about 75% of these users to quit smoking. 

(See: Dawkins L, Turner J, Roberts A, Soar K. 'Vaping' profiles and preferences: an online survey of electronic cigarette users. Addiction 2013; doi: 10.1111/add.12150.)

There were 1,347 respondents to this online survey. The main finding was that: "Seventy-four percent of participants reported not smoking for at least a few weeks since using the e-cigarette and 70% reported reduced urge to smoke." In addition, "a further 14% reported that their cigarette consumption had decreased

Thus, a total of 88% of the respondents had either quit smoking or cut down substantially on the amount they smoked.

Fifty-seven percent of the sample reported not having smoked for months after quitting using the e-cigarette.

The article concludes: "Survey respondents were predominantly ex-smokers who wanted a complete alternative to smoking. The majority of respondents reported that e-cigarette use (vaping) had dramatically reduced their craving for cigarettes and helped them to stop or substantially reduce their tobacco consumption. ... E-cigarettes were generally considered to be satisfying to use, associated with very few side
effects, healthier than smoking, and responsible for improved cough and breathing."

The article's final recommendation is as follows: "the results of this study, and previous studies, suggest that e-cigarette users who respond to online surveys vape as a complete or partial alternative to smoking. There was little evidence for dual use (smokers continuing to smoke at previous levels and adding nicotine via e-cigarette) or addictive potential in this sample. Although absolute safety and product quality should be more thoroughly evaluated, the implications of these findings for policy-makers, regulators and health-care providers are clear: prohibiting or discouraging the use of e-cigarettes could be detrimental to public health if smokers are deprived of a highly endorsed and well-tolerated method of smoking cessation."

The Rest of the Story

Obviously, this sample is a biased one so the study cannot be used to draw quantitative estimates of the proportion of smokers whot will quit smoking using e-cigarettes. That, of course, was not the purpose of the study. What the study does demonstrate is that these devices do have great potential. They are, in fact, an effective smoking cessation tool for many smokers. Clinical trials are needed to quantify the quit rates that can be achieved with these products, but this article should put to bed the argument that there is no evidence that electronic cigarettes can help smokers quit.

The survey also adds important information on the side effects of electronic cigarettes. Very few users reported adverse health effects. The most common side effects were mouth and throat irritation.

Also of importance, the study finds that a large percentage of e-cigarette users actually experienced an improvement in their health, as evidenced by decreased cough and improved breathing. Seventy percent of users reported a substantial reduction in cough, and 72% report a substantial improvement in their breathing.

Essentially, anti-smoking advocates and organizations are working to take these breathing improvements and improved respiratory status away by discouraging e-cigarette use.

The most important finding of the study is that electronic cigarettes are being used as a complete or partial alternative to cigarette smoking and that there is little evidence for dual use. This destroys the main argument of the anti-smoking groups - like the American Legacy Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights - which continue to oppose electronic cigarettes.

The rest of the story can best be stated by repeating the recommendation made by the study: "prohibiting or discouraging the use of e-cigarettes could be detrimental to public health if smokers are deprived of a highly endorsed and well-tolerated method of smoking cessation."

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