Smokers using e-cigarettes to quit are no more likely to be successful in the long term than those using nicotine patches, a study has claimed.
E-cigarette smokers were also more likely to suffer side effects, such as dry cough and throat irritation.
The meta-analysis, which looked at four existing studies into e-cigarette effect on smoking cessation and 18 into their clinical safety, concluded that until more research was available smokers should continue to be advised to use cessation aids that are backed up by more evidence.
The team of researchers, from the University of Toronto, found that e-cigarettes improved abstinence from smoking at one month but the effect lost at three and six months.
The only study that looked at continuous abstinence, rather than specific follow-up times, found no difference in the abstinence rates between e-cigarette users and people given e-cigarette placebos or open-label nicotine patches, however e-cigarettes were associated with twice the risk of serious adverse events as patches..
Lead author Dr Riyad al-Lehebi said: ‘Although e-cigarettes are widely promoted and used as a smoking cessation tool, we found no data supporting their long-term efficacy and safety.
‘Given the potential health risks of using these unproven and unregulated devices, individuals seeking help with smoking cessation should consider other more well-established options until more research is performed.’
NICE currently does not recommend e-cigarettes for smoking cessation but a recent NICE publication on tobacco harm reduction said GPs may advise smokers that they are likely to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes.
Other studies have concluded e-cigarettes were more effective than non-prescription smoking cessation aids and UK researchers recently said GPs should be telling smokers that e-cigarettes will help them quit.