E-cigarettes may be as effective as nicotine patches to help people quit smoking, study finds
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, with or without nicotine may be as effective as nicotine patches in helping people quit smoking, according to new research from the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
The study, published on 7 September 2013 in the online academic journal The Lancet, also found that the occurrence adverse affects associated with nicotine e-cigarettes were of a similar level to those associated with nicotine patches.
Researchers said their study found that e-cigarettes, with or without nicotine were “modestly effective” at helping smokers to quit.
The researchers selected 657 people who smoked and randomly allocated them to three groups: 289 to nicotine e-cigarettes, 295 to patches and 73 to placebo (or non-nicotine) e-cigarettes. All participants were referred to Quitline, a telephone-based support service for people trying to quit smoking.
At the six-month follow up, verified and continuous abstinence from smoking was highest in the nicotine e-cigarettes (7.3 per cent), followed by the nicotine patches group (5.8 per cent) and the placebo e-cigarettes group (4.1 per cent). Researchers said the achievement of abstinence from smoking was substantially lower than they anticipated, which meant they could not conclude whether nicotine e-cigarettes were a superior treatment to nicotine patches.
“Uncertainty exists about the place of e-cigarettes in tobacco control, and more research is urgently needed to clearly establish their overall benefits and harms at both individual and population levels,” the researchers wrote.
Continued use of treatment
The study found that adherence to treatment was significantly higher in the nicotine e-cigarettes group compared with the patches group and the placebo e-cigarettes group.
At a one-month follow up, 78 per cent of participants in the nicotine e-cigarettes group and 82 per cent of those in the placebo e-cigarettes group were still using the product, compared with 46 per cent of those allocated to nicotine patches. By three months, 51 per cent of the nicotine e-cigarettes group were still using the product, 53 per cent in the placebo e-cigarettes group, and 18 per cent in the nicotine patches group. At six months 29 per cent of the nicotine e-cigarettes group were still using the product, 35 per cent of the placebo e-cigarettes group, and only 8 per cent of the nicotine patches group. Among those in the nicotine e-cigarettes group verified as abstinent, 38 per cent still used e-cigarettes at the six month mark.
The researchers said there was “sustained enthusiasm” for the e-cigarettes products. At the six month mark, 85 per cent of the nicotine e-cigarettes group and 88 per cent of the placebo e-cigarettes group said they would recommend the product to a friend wanting to quit, compared to 50 per cent of the nicotine patches group.
The authors said these findings suggested the e-cigarettes may have “higher acceptability” among people wanting to quit smoking.
The study included researchers from the National Institute for Health Innovation at the School of Population Health at the University of Auckland, Health New Zealand, the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine, the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, Queen Mary University of London, the Department of Public Health and General Practice at the University of Otago in Christchurch.
E-cigarette availability in Australia?
No e-cigarette products have been approved as yet for sale or use by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia.
US sales of e-cigarettes expected to reach $1.7 billion in 2013
Meanwhile, in the US sales of e-cigarettes are believed to have exceeded the US$1 billion mark and are expected to reach US$1.7 billion by the close of 2013. These sales figures include both in-store and online sales.
Sales of traditional tobacco cigarettes are estimated at approximately US$80 billion a year in the US.