Can e-cigarettes help smokers quit?
A new study reveals that smokers who are willing to use e-cigarettes tend to smoke less and have increased quit attempts.
Matthew Carpenter, a tobacco control and addiction expert at the cancer center at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) says: 'Combustible cigarettes are the most harmful form of nicotine delivery. Alternative delivery of nicotine, through e-cigarettes, could significantly reduce harm and the risks of cancer and other diseases to smokers.
In the pilot study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, Carpenter evaluated e-cigarettes in terms of usage, product preference, changes in smoking behaviors and nicotine exposure. Sixty-eight smokers were evaluated: 46 were randomized to use e-cigarettes however they wished, and 22 were randomized to a control group.
Those in the e-cigarette group were given a device with either high or low doses of nicotine. Everyone was followed over a period of four months. The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention in November and is one of the few randomized studies in the U.S. to examine the effects of e-cigarettes and quit attempts.
Results showed that when smokers were given e-cigarettes without any accompanying instructions or requirements for use, uptake was strong, and many participants went on to purchase their own e-cigarettes. This suggests that e-cigarettes might give smokers a suitable alternative to combustible cigarettes. Those who used e-cigarettes smoked less and were more likely to quit smoking, as compared to those in the control group.
Of the two e-cigarette models used in the study, the more powerful device, with a higher dose of nicotine, showed stronger outcomes. People using e-cigarettes throughout the study smoked an average of 37% fewer cigarettes, showing a positive effect when making the switch and potentially serving as a tool to help smokers quit.
That's good news for Carpenter and his colleagues at the Hollings Cancer Center. Smoking is the leading cause of cancer and has a negative impact on the effectiveness of cancer treatments. People who quit smoking, regardless of their ages, have substantial gains in life expectancy compared with those who continue to smoke.
Carpenter cautions that while e-cigarettes may help people smoke less or even quit, they are not for everyone. 'It is important to protect non-smokers, particularly adolescents and young adults, from starting any nicotine-containing product. This is something we need to really guard against.'
Author: Julie Bissett