Research links e-cigarette use to ‘quit success’

In collaboration with the Press Association

People trying to quit smoking without the aid of prescription medication or professional support could be around 60 per cent more likely to succeed if they use electronic ‘e-cigarettes’ compared with nicotine patches and gum, or relying on will power alone.

"E-cigarettes may have a role in helping people to quit smoking but the evidence for their effectiveness is so far limited" - Alison Cox, Cancer Research UKThe findings come from a survey of 5,863 smokers in England who had attempted to stop smoking without support or medication.

Of those using e-cigarettes, one in five reported having quit "real" cigarettes at the time the study was carried out.

Cancer Research UK’s head of tobacco policy Alison Cox welcomed the findings, saying they helped paint a “clearer picture” of the role e-cigarettes could play.

"E-cigarettes may have a role in helping people to quit smoking but while the rapid rise in their popularity suggests a real opportunity, the evidence for their effectiveness is so far limited,” she said.

The research, published in the journal Addiction, suggests that e-cigarettes could play a positive role in reducing smoking rates.

Study leader Professor Robert West, from University College London, noted that while e-cigarettes could play a role in quitting, the evidence was strongest for the NHS’s stop-smoking services.

“These almost triple a smoker's odds of successfully quitting compared with going it alone or relying on over-the-counter products," he added.

Professor West acknowledged that some quitters may want to keep using e-cigarettes indefinitely, and it was not clear whether or not this carried long-term health risks.

But he added: "From what is known about the contents of the vapour these will be much less than from smoking.

"Some public health experts have expressed concern that widespread use of e-cigarettes could 're-normalise' smoking. However, we are tracking this very closely and see no evidence of it. Smoking rates in England are declining, quitting rates are increasing and regular e-cigarette use among never smokers is negligible."

According to Cancer Research UK’s Alison Cox, "smoking is the largest preventable cause of cancer and accounts for more than one in four cancer deaths in the UK - so helping smokers to stop is a vital contribution to the health of the UK.”

“Cancer Research UK is funding much-needed research into e-cigarette use to help inform policy development and individuals' choices, and research such as this is helping to paint a clearer picture.”

The current studies were part-funded by Cancer Research UK.

Copyright Press Association 2014

References

  • Brown J, et al. (2014). Real-world effectiveness of e-cigarettes when used to aid smoking cessation: a cross-sectional population study, Addiction, DOI: