E-cigarettes are about as effective as nicotine patches in helping smokers to quit but more effective in helping them cut down, according to the first study comparing the two.
New Zealand researchers randomised 657 smokers who wanted to quit to receive 13 weeks’ supply of e-cigarettes, nicotine patches or placebo e-cigarettes, which contained no nicotine.
Six months later, the proportion who successfully quit was highest in the e-cigarettes group at 7.3%, compared to 5.8% for those in the nicotine patches group, a difference which was not statistically significant. The quit rate was 4.1% in the placebo e-cigarettes group.
But among those who had not managed to quit after six months, cigarette consumption was markedly reduced in the nicotine e-cigarettes group, compared to the patches and placebo groups; well over half (57%) of those in the e-cigarettes group had reduced their daily consumption of cigarettes by at least half after six months, compared to 41% in the patches group.
The study was presented today at the European Respiratory Society annual congress in Barcelona and in The Lancet. It is only the second controlled trial to be published which evaluates e-cigarettes, and is the first ever assess whether e-cigarettes are more or less effective than nicotine patches.