E-cigarettes and vaping help people to quit smoking better than traditional nicotine-replacement therapies, such as patches and chewing gums, research has suggested.
The Cochrane Library review, led by the University of Oxford and funded by Cancer Research UK, has concluded there is “high-certainty evidence” that people are more likely to stop smoking for at least six months using nicotine e-cigarettes or ‘vapes’ than by using nicotine-replacement therapies, such as patches and gums.
The conclusions do, however, follow research that has raised wider health concerns about vaping, including arguing that it can lead to “worrisome” changes in blood pressure and heart rate.
The Oxford University study found that nicotine e-cigarettes led to higher quit rates than e-cigarettes without nicotine, or no-stop-smoking intervention, although it conceded that less data contributed to these analyses.
The updated Cochrane review included 78 studies in more than 22,000 participants – an addition of 22 studies since the last update in 2021.
Data from the review showed that, if six in 100 people quit by using nicotine-replacement therapy, eight to 12 would quit by using electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. This meant an additional two to six people in 100 could potentially quit smoking with nicotine containing electronic cigarettes, it calculated.
Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, associate professor at Oxford University, editor of the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group, and an author of the new publication, said: “Electronic cigarettes have generated a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and the popular press since their introduction over a decade ago. These misunderstandings discourage some people from using e-cigarettes as a stop smoking tool.
“Fortunately, more and more evidence is emerging and provides further clarity. For the first time, this has given us high-certainty evidence that e-cigarettes are even more effective at helping people to quit smoking than traditional nicotine replacement therapies, like patches or gums,” she added.
In studies comparing nicotine e-cigarettes to nicotine replacement treatment, significant side effects were rare. In the short to medium term (or up to two years), nicotine e-cigarettes most typically caused throat or mouth irritation, headache, cough, and feeling nauseous. However, these effects appeared to diminish over time, the research found.
The researchers concluded that more evidence, particularly about the effects of newer e-cigarettes with better nicotine delivery than earlier ones, was needed to assist more people quit smoking. Longer-term data was also needed, they added.