Scientists in the UK announced this week that smokers trying to quit are 60 percent more likely to report success if they switch to e-cigarettes than if they use nicotine products like patches or gum, or just plain old willpower.
The findings, one of the largest and longest in duration to date, were presented from a study of almost 6,000 smokers over five years, and in it the researchers said their results suggest e-cigarettes could play a vital and undeniable role in reducing smoking rates and thereby cutting tobacco-related deaths and its associated illnesses.
As we all know by now, tobacco smoking is also a major contributor to a variety of cardiovascular disease which is the world’s number one killer not to mention a myriad of other less deadly afflictions.
“E-cigarettes could substantially improve public health because of their widespread appeal and the huge health gains associated with stopping smoking,” said the leader of the study, Robert West of University College London’s epidemiology and public health department.
Interestingly, the research was mainly funded by the charity Cancer Research UK and was published in the journal Addiction. Mr. West’s study surveyed 5,863 smokers between 2009 and 2014 who had tried to quit without using various prescription medicines or professional help.
Dr. West stated that the results were adjusted for a range of factors that might possibly influence one’s success at quitting including the smoker’s age, nicotine dependence, previous attempts to give up smoking, and whether quitting was gradual or abrupt.
The results? The final numbers showed that 20 percent of people trying to quit with the aid of e-cigarettes reported having stopped smoking conventional tobacco cigarettes.
That 20 per cent compared with just 10.1 percent of those using over-the-counter aids such as nicotine replacement gum or patches. And of those using willpower alone, 15.4 percent had managed to stop.
Interesting, no? So in order of efficacy: E-cigarettes, willpower and then over-the-counter products.
While e-cigarettes contain nicotine which is a stimulant not thought to be particularly harmful on its own, it is addictive. However, the nicotine is delivered in a water vapor rather than in smoke from burning tobacco which contains a wide array of chemicals and preservatives.
Because switching to e-cigarettes from tobacco ones does not entail kicking the addiction to nicotine, some pundits say e-cigs could spell the end of smoking – which the World Health Organisation (WHO) calls “one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced”.
But critics continue to point to a lack of long-term scientific evidence to support the effectiveness and safety of e-cigarettes. They also warn that e-cigs may re-normalize smoking although this large scale study strongly suggests otherwise.
This study’s lead researchers agreed that evidence about long-term use is e-cigarettes is minimal right now but they stressed that the balance of risks had to be weighed against the overwhelming evidence of tobacco’s harms.
“It’s not clear whether long-term use of e-cigarettes carries health risks, but from what is known about the contents of the vapor these will be much less than from smoking,” he said.
A startling but perhaps not surprising fact, smoking tobacco kills half of all those who do it, according to the WHO, and has a death toll of 6 million people a year.