redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Electronic cigarettes are reportedly at least as effective as nicotine patches when it comes to helping smokers kick the habit, according to research presented Sunday at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) Annual Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
According to BBC News Health and Science Reporter James Gallagher, the study showed roughly the same amount of people quitting using the vapor-producing devices as with patches, as well as a greater number of smokers cutting back on the number of cigarettes they smoked. However, the study authors also called for a long-term investigation into the safety of the devices.
Researchers from the University of Auckland, who also published their findings in the medical journal The Lancet, recruited 657 individuals with a desire to stop smoking and divided them into three different groups. The first group of 292 people was given a 13-week supply of commercially available e-cigarettes containing approximately 16mg of nicotine, a second group of 292 people was given 13 weeks of nicotine patches, and the remaining 73 were given nicotine-free placebo e-cigarettes, according to Kate Kelland of Reuters.
Following the six-month study, 5.7 percent of all subjects had managed to stop smoking. The e-cigarette group had the highest percentage (7.3 percent), followed by the nicotine patch group (5.8 percent) and the placebo group (4.1 percent), though the authors told Reuters that the differences were not statistically significant. Furthermore, 57 percent of people using the e-cigarettes had reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked each day by at least half during the six month period, versus a little over 40 percent for the nicotine patch group.
“Our study establishes a critical benchmark for e-cigarette performance compared to nicotine patches and placebo e-cigarettes, but there is still so much that is unknown about the effectiveness and long-term effects of e-cigarettes,” lead author Chris Bullen, an associate professor and the director of the university’s National Institute for Health Innovation, said in a statement. “Given the increasing popularity of these devices in many countries, and the accompanying regulatory uncertainty and inconsistency, larger, longer-term trials are urgently needed to establish whether these devices might be able to fulfill their potential as effective and popular smoking cessation aids.”
“The introduction of e-cigarettes on the market has caused some debate amongst healthcare professionals. Our position is clear: we need more research on the positive or negative effects of these products,” added European Respiratory Society President Francesco Blasi. “This study has taken us one step closer to understanding the effectiveness of these devices as a quitting aid, but we still need long-term independent clinical trials and behavioral studies.”
Blasi added that it was essential for future research to focus specifically on the safety of e-cigarettes, as there is little data on that topic and the growing popularity of the devices – as well as the results of the new study – suggest that people are “enthusiastic” about them as a smoking cessation tool. He also advised that without “strong scientific evidence” regarding the safety of the vapor-producing devices, that international policymakers should “proceed with caution” when determining how best to regulate their legality.