E-cigarettes 'help smokers cut down and quit', analysis suggests

In collaboration with the Press Association

A combined analysis of previous studies into electronic cigarettes – or e-cigarettes – shows they can be useful in helping people to quit or cut down on smoking.

"We look forward to further evidence around e-cigarettes to paint a clearer picture of how they may be used to help smokers quit," - Nicola Smith, Cancer Research UK

Electronic cigarettes mimic the experience of cigarette smoking, by providing a nicotine 'hit' without exposing the smoker, or others around them, to the harmful smoke from conventional cigarettes. 

The analysis, from the Cochrane Collaboration, looked at data from 662 smokers from two randomised trials.  

It found that using e-cigarettes may double smokers chances of quitting in comparison to those who used non-nicotine alternatives.  

Just over a third (36 per cent) of regular e-cigarette users reduced their cigarette intake by half compared with just over a quarter (28 per cent) who were given a placebo device that contained no nicotine, the analysis showed.

But due to the small number of trials, these encouraging results will need to be confirmed by more studies, the authors said.

One of the authors, Prof Peter Hajek from Queen Mary University of London, told the BBC: "Although our confidence is limited because of the small number of trials, the results are encouraging.

"Both trials used e-cigarettes with low nicotine delivery, and it is likely that more recent products are more effective.
"Several ongoing studies will help to answer the question more fully."

Nicola Smith, Cancer Research UK’s senior health information officer, said: “This is a reliable review of the evidence around e-cigarettes, but it’s still early days and e-cigarettes are a relatively new product compared to others that smokers use to quit.”

“We recognise the potential that e-cigarettes may have for lowering smoking rates and there’s a consensus that e-cigarettes are almost certainly far safer than smoking,” she said. 

Cancer Research UK is funding further research into the safety, effectiveness and impact of e-cigarettes. 

“We look forward to further evidence around e-cigarettes to paint a clearer picture of how they may be used to help smokers quit,” said Smith.

But until there is more reliable evidence, the NHS Stop Smoking services offer behavioural support and prescription medication that has been proven to help quitting, she added.