Smokers trying to quit without any professional help are 60% more likely to succeed when opting for electronic cigarettes over other non-prescription nicotine replacement products, research has suggested.
A study of 5,863 smokers, surveyed between 2009 and 2014, found that 20% of those using e-cigarettes managed to stop smoking conventional cigarettes. This represented a 60% higher success rate than among those using other non-prescription nicotine replacements such as gum or patches, or who were relying on willpower alone, according to the findings published in the journal Addiction.
Lead report author Professor Robert West, professor of health psychology and director of tobacco studies at University College London, said: ‘E-cigarettes could substantially improve public health because of their widespread appeal and the huge health gains associated with stopping smoking.’
But he added that e-cigarette use should not be viewed as a replacement to smoking cessation services offered by the NHS, as these have a much higher success rate.
He said: ‘However, we should also recognise that the strongest evidence remains for use of the NHS stop-smoking services. These almost triple a smoker’s odds of successfully quitting compared with going it alone or relying on over-the-counter products.’
The authors also warned that despite the benefit of e-cigarettes, due to be licensed as medicines by the MHRA in 2016, the long-term risks of the devices were yet to be established. However existing evidence suggested that any risks were minimal and the harm will certainly be less than conventional smoking, the authors concluded.
Last year, the first study to compare the effectiveness of e-cigarettes versus nicotine patches found they were ‘as effective’.