Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Do Electronic Cigarettes Help Smokers Quit? Yes, But…

A Cochrane review has found evidence that smokers who use electronic cigarettes can stop or reduce their smoking.

The review by researchers from the UK and New Zealand examined two randomised trials involving 662 current smokers, and found that nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes were more effective at helping smokers kick the habit than placebo electronic cigarettes that were nicotine-free.

“Although our confidence in the effects of electronic cigarettes as smoking cessation interventions is limited because of the small number of trials, the results are encouraging,” said Prof Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University of London. “Several ongoing studies will help to answer the question more fully.”

The researchers looked at the effects of electronic cigarettes on quit rates and the number of people who were able to reduce the number of cigarettes they smoked by at least 50%. They also looked at any adverse effects reported by electronic cigarette users.

About 9% of smokers who used electronic cigarettes were able to stop smoking at up to 1 year. This compared with around 4% of smokers who used the nicotine-free electronic cigarettes.

When the researchers looked at data for reduced cigarette smoking by people who had not quit, they found that 36% of electronic cigarette users halved the number of conventional cigarettes smoked compared with 28% of those who were given placebos.

Only one of the trials looked at the effects of electronic cigarettes compared with patches, and this suggested similar efficacy for the two treatments.

No serious adverse effects were attributed to electronic cigarette use of up to 2 years.