Smokers are nearly twice as likely to kick the habit if they switch to e-cigarettes than if they use nicotine replacement patches and gums, a new study has found.
The research is published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It is based on the experiences of nearly 900 long-term smokers who sought NHS help to quit.
The predominantly middle-aged smokers were randomly assigned either an e-cig starter kit or nicotine replacement therapy such as patches, lozenges, sprays or gum. All were given behavioural support. One year later, 18% of the vapers were no longer smoking, compared to almost 10% of the others.
It is the first trial to compare licensed quitting aids like patches to e-cigs, which aren’t licensed for medical use.
The vapers in the study were less likely to suffer from the initial problems smokers have when trying to give up, like irritability and inability to concentrate. They did however report more throat and mouth irritation, while nicotine replacement therapy users reported more nausea.
At the end of the year, nearly 80% of those assigned e-cigs were still vaping, whereas only 9% of the other group were still using gum and other types of nicotine replacement therapy.
Professor Peter Hajek from Queen Mary University of London conducted the trial. He commented: “Although a large number of smokers report that they have quit smoking successfully with the help of e-cigarettes, health professionals have been reluctant to recommend their use because of the lack of clear evidence from randomised controlled trials. This is now likely to change.”
Public Health England helped kickstart the rapid expansion of e-cigs when it said vaping was 95% less harmful than smoking. Its Tobacco Control Lead Martin Dockrell said: “This landmark research shows that switching to an e-cigarette can be one of the most effective ways to quit smoking, especially when combined with face-to-face support. All stop-smoking services should welcome smokers who want to quit with the help of an e-cigarette.”