New US research has found that using e-cigarettes daily appears to be effective in helping adult smokers quit tobacco cigarettes.
Carried out by a team from Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Tobacco Research and Treatment Center, the new study looked at more than 8,000 adult smokers who were taking part in the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study.
The study used a sample of participants representative of the US adult population, and as it interviewed the same individuals each year, allowed the researchers to see how each participant’s tobacco use changed over time.
Using the study data, the team measured how likely participants were to quit smoking and successfully stay off cigarettes, comparing daily and non-daily e-cigarette users with those who smoked only regular tobacco cigarettes.
The findings, published online in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, showed that smokers who used e-cigarettes every day were more likely to quit tobacco cigarettes within one year. Daily e-cigarette use was also associated with a 77%increased chance of staying off cigarettes over the next two years compared to e-cigarette non-users.
However, smokers who used e-cigarettes, but not daily, were no more likely than non-users to stay off regular cigarettes.
“This finding suggests that smokers who use e-cigarettes to quit smoking need to use them regularly – every day – for these products to be most helpful,” says lead author Sara Kalkhoran.
“Smokers who plan to stop smoking should still be encouraged to first use FDA-approved therapies rather than e-cigarettes,” says Nancy Rigotti, MD, senior author of the paper. “But this study suggests e-cigarettes may be helpful for some smokers who are not able to quit with these existing treatments,” she added.
FDA-approved therapies include varenicline, bupropion, or nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges.
Although e-cigarettes contain nicotine, they do not burn tobacco, which is responsible for many of the health problems associated with regular cigarettes.
“For a smoker, e-cigarettes are less harmful to their health than continuing to smoke cigarettes, says Rigotti, “But e-cigarettes have become popular so quickly that many questions remain about how they can best be used to help smokers to quit and minimize any harm.”
Previous research has already linked e-cigarettes to a range of health problems including an increased risk of heart attack, an increased risk of pneumonia, damage to lung cells and damage to the immune system’s white blood cells, suggesting that using them comes with its own set of health risks.
The FDA also launched this week its first e-cigarette prevention TV ads to educate children and teens about the dangers of e-cigarette use to address what it refers to as “the troubling epidemic of youth vaping.”