E-cigarettes 'as effective as nicotine patches'

In collaboration with the Press Association

E-cigarettes can be as effective as nicotine patches at helping smokers quit, according to researchers in New Zealand.

A clinical trial found that 7.3 per cent of people using e-cigarettes quit the habit compared with 5.8 per cent of those using nicotine patches. Around 4 per cent of those who used placebo e-cigarettes, which did not contain any nicotine, successfully stopped, a University of Auckland team found.

The report, published in The Lancet, suggested e-cigarettes are comparable to nicotine patches in helping people to quit for at least six months.

During the study, 300 participants received 13 weeks's supply of e-cigarettes with 16mg nicotine, 292 got nicotine patches and 73 used nicotine-free placebo e-cigarettes. Smokers in the study were followed for 13 weeks using the cessation aids and a three-month follow-up inspection.

As well as the individual group results, the study found that one in twenty of all participants stayed smoke-free over the six months. Of those who had resumed smoking, cigarette consumption dropped in the e-cigarettes group compared to the other two.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK's head of tobacco policy, said the study provided a welcome contribution to our understanding of whether e-cigarettes can help bring down smoking rates.

"Cancer Research UK is determined to reduce deaths from smoking-related cancers and there's a lot of potential for e-cigarettes to help reduce the devastating impact of tobacco, which kills half its long term users. There are many unanswered questions about these products, so it's crucial that they're properly explored to understand their benefits and risks.

"We are pleased e-cigarettes will be regulated in a similar way to other nicotine-containing products such as gums and patches, and still be readily available to those smokers who want to use them. MHRA licensing will help ensure they are safe, they aren't marketed to children and the long-term health impact of this form of nicotine use is monitored," she added.

Copyright Press Association 2013