A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday put to the test a major claim made by e-cigarette makers when the devices first emerged: that electronic cigarettes, which don’t burn tobacco but do still provide a hit of nicotine, can help cigarette smokers to kick the habit.
In a rigorous study pitting the battery-powered e-cigs against nicotine replacement therapies like nicotine gums, lozenges, sprays and patches, the researchers found that e-cigs helped smokers to remain abstinent for one year at nearly twice the rate as those using nicotine replacement options. Among 886 smokers who were randomly assigned to e-cigs or nicotine replacement, 18% of the e-cig users were no longer smoking at one year compared to 9.9% of the nicotine replacement users.
But the e-cig users were also more likely to still be using their devices at one year compared to the nicotine replacement users — 80% compared to 9%.
Those findings could be interpreted in different ways, says the study’s lead author, Peter Hajek, professor of preventive medicine at Queen Mary University of London. On one hand, they could be seen as confirming the effectiveness of e-cigs in helping smokers stay off cigarettes. On the other hand, since e-cigs still expose users to nicotine, the results could be perceived as simply keeping smokers addicted to nicotine, just in a different form.
Alice Park – Time – January 30, 2020.