Since the appearance of the electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, critics have claimed it lacks credibility as a successful way to stop smoking. However, a recent study disputes that belief.
Researchers from University College London report that among individuals attempting to stop smoking without benefit of professional help, those who use e-cigarettes are 60 percent more likely to be successful than individuals who rely on nicotine replacement or willpower, says Medical News Today. Findings appeared in the journal Addiction.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking cigarettes is responsible for more than 480,000 U.S. deaths each year, or about 20 percent of all deaths. The number of Americans who have died prematurely as the result of the practice is more than 10 times as great as those who have perished in all U.S. wars. In women, smoking increases the risk of lung cancer by an estimated 25.7 times. It causes coronary heart disease and strokes, the two top causes of U.S. deaths.
E-cigarettes run on batteries and provide the user with nicotine and other chemicals, the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) reports. Manufacturers have promoted them as an effective method to stop smoking traditional cigarettes and have produced them in flavors like strawberry and chocolate to appeal to the youth market. A UCSF study supported the belief that the electronic devices might actually spur teenagers to nicotine addiction and conventional smoking.
Despite criticism of their use, e-cigarettes have grown in popularity in recent years, with use by U.S. smokers rising to more than 30 percent in 2012. They aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Their battery-powered heating elements provide users with a vapor created by heating a nicotine solution.
Between 2009 and 2014, the UK researchers completed surveys of 5,800 smokers who tried to stop smoking without using professional assistance or prescription medication. After they adjusted certain demographics, they discovered that one out of every five who used e-cigarettes said they had stopped smoking traditional cigarettes.
Those who opted to use nicotine replacement aids like gum or patches reported a rate of just 10.1 percent. Among individuals who attempted to stop smoking without any help, 15.4 percent said they were successful.
Senior author Robert West says that his team plans to continue following the success rates of e-cigarette users. He adds that what scientists know about the makeup of the vapor suggests that any health risks from e-cigarettes will be significantly less than those associated with smoking tobacco.
The UK study had limitations. Researchers did not biochemically verify that subjects had actually stopped smoking. The study also relied on the ability of individuals to remember information from the previous 12 months. A significant variation in nicotine vaporization in the various types of e-cigarettes was also a limitation.
Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.