Vaping 2x better for quitting smoking than patches, gum

Alicia Farmer
February 2, 2019

E-cigarettes are nearly twice as effective at helping smokers quit as nicotine replacement treatments like patches, lozenges and gum, according to the results of a major clinical trial.

The researchers analyzed data from three waves of the nationally representative Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study (2013-2016) in their effort to evaluate the association between prior e-cigarette use and use of other non-cigarette tobacco products with later cigarette initiation over a roughly 2-year period.

Extrapolating their data, the researchers estimated that 820,414 youths had smoked a cigarette over the examined years, with almost 180,000 of those having used e-cigarettes previously.

One reason that e-cigarettes may be more effective for smoking cessation is because they allow smokers to tailor the nicotine dose to their needs, a study suggests.

The World Health Organization is concerned about cancer-causing chemicals in the devices and the European Union believes e-cigarettes may act as a "gateway" to tobacco. It seems likely that using a more enjoyable product makes people more likely to stick with it, and thus less likely to relapse to smoking.

The New York Times reports that a yearlong, randomized trial conducted in the UK shows that e-cigarettes are almost twice as effective as smoking cessation products like patches or gum, which in the United States are the only two smoking cessation products approved by the FDA. They state that amounts to an increase of about one million children using e-cigarettes.

Professor Hywel Williams, Director of the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme, said: "This groundbreaking NIHR-funded study provides clear evidence that e-cigarettes are nearly twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapy for helping smokers to quit". Questions about the long-term safety of e-cigarettes are still unanswered, however they are likely to be much less harmful than long-term tobacco smoking. After one year, 18 percent of e-cigarette users were smoke-free, versus 9.9 percent of those using the other products.

The report was released on the same day as a separate study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that found common e-cigarette flavors may harm users' lungs.

"Yet, instead of an official statement or press release about this new United Kingdom study (none appear on the FDA website) or any statement about how adult smokers need to switch to safer e-cigarettes, Gottlieb offered a milquetoast tweet (emphasis mine) saying the FDA is "...committed to the promise that e-cigs can help now addicted adult smokers quit; and improve their health by doing so..." adding that the agency's "urgent concerns are kids use of these products, and how to arrest it without substantially impeding adults".

The authors of the study are continuing to follow the trial participants, and it will be interesting to see how many in the vaping and NRT groups relapse to smoking, and how many who were still smoking at the one-year mark quit later.

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"The youths initiating cigarettes through e-cigarettes represent a substantial public health challenge that may warrant stricter regulation of youths' access to e-cigarettes", the report says.

Myth #1: E-cigarettes give you popcorn lung.

"Another "side effect" of e-cigarettes is the potential for "renormalization" of addiction", Borelli said.

While nicotine plays a part, Stokes thinks the influence of vaping is "more complex than just nicotine".

Only 10 per cent of those who tried nicotine patches, gum or sprays managed to quit - along with just three per cent of those who attempted to give up smoking unaided.

But Jordt noted that newer devices like the Juul pod have only recently arrived in the UK.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb proposed measures in November for restricting sales of most flavored e-cigarettes and limiting them to specialized shops and online retailers that can verify a purchaser's age.

"It's a concern. But the people who switch, they're still likely to have lower health risks", said Levy.

Because of the nature of the treatments, it wasn't possible to disguise from people whether they were using e-cigarettes or NRT products.

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