More studies are helping regulators to decide what role e-cigarettes could play in anti-smoking efforts.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently evaluating the safety of e-cigarettes, which are battery-powered versions of cigarettes that can contain varying amounts of nicotine but don’t expose users to the potentially harmful byproducts of tobacco smoke such as tar and carbon monoxide. Instead, they inhale nicotine vapors, which the device’s advocates say is safer than smoking conventional cigarettes, and makes e-cigarettes a viable way to kick the habit as well. And the latest study on e-cigarettes, published in the journal Lancet, supports that claim. In the first clinical trial comparing e-cigarettes and nicotine patches in helping people to quit smoking, both methods proved equally successful. After a 13-week smoking cessation program, similar numbers of smokers who used e-cigarettes remained smoke-free after six months as used nicotine patches.
The researchers, from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, recruited 657 smokers eager to kick the habit. One group received placebo e-cigarettes with no nicotine, another group received a 13-week supply of e-cigarettes with 16 mg of nicotine and the third was provided with a 13-week supply of nicotine patches. Among the e-cigarette smokers, 7.8% had quit by the end of the study, while 5.8% of those using the patch had stopped lighting up, a difference that wasn’t statistically significant, meaning that the two interventions had essentially the same impact.