Nicotine addiction is tough to battle. Add to that other factors such as social influence, the feeling smokers describe when holding a cigarette, and a sort of prestige smoking has had over the years.
So are smokers doomed? Certainly not.
Some have managed to quit just through sheer will power. Some have managed to do it using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products such as patches, gums, sprays, etc. Unfortunately, many have failed to stay non-smokers for long.
Luckily, we are seeing promising results with the rise of e-cigarettes and vaping. There is no doubt that they are less harmful to health than regular cigarettes. Better yet, vaping can help smooth the transition from the habit to a smoke-free life.
Results from 50 scientific studies, including 26 randomized control trials, have been summed up in a Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group review. The results show that smoking cessation rates are almost as twice as high with vaping versus NRT.
The review included 11 researchers from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with Jamie Hartmann-Boyce of the University of Oxford as the lead author.
Key findings include that:
- Electronic cigarettes with nicotine show better quit rates compared to e-cigarettes without nicotine and NRT products
- There’s no clear evidence of harm from nicotine electronic cigarettes
Dr. John Britton, an emeritus professor of respiratory medicine at Nottingham University, concluded that the Cochrane review “provides definitive confirmation that electronic cigarettes offer smokers an effective means of quitting, and perhaps even more so than some licensed stop smoking medicines.”
Dr. Peter Hajek, the director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London also says that vaping is both more attractive and more effective nicotine replacement for smokers.
Some smokers transitioning to vaping have reported cough, throat and mouth irritation, headache, and nausea, but those symptoms usually dissipate over time. It’s important to note that the type of e-cigarette, quality and flavor of vape liquids, and concentration of nicotine can affect the experience. With more and more options on the market, the vape industry has a lot to offer to cater to most people’s preferences.
Of course, there’s still a lot of skepticism and debate around vaping, with many American doctors believing that nicotine can cause cancer, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
It doesn’t help that clinical trials are difficult to conduct on a consumer product such as e-cigarettes. The main issue is that randomized trials are generally used to compare the effects of two or more therapies (or therapy group vs. placebo group) to treat specific medical conditions. Following a strict protocol of receiving an exact dose at certain intervals is almost impossible to achieve with e-cigarettes and vaping where users have many options and freedom to use these products as they see fit.
It’s important to understand that vaping is not a treatment for a disease but a less harmful option for nicotine consumption compared to smoking.
A randomized trial coordinated by Prof. Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University of London compared the smoking cessation success rates of vapers vs. subjects using NRT products. Vapers in the study were limited to only one product, and still had 18% quit rates after one year. Those using NRT products had multiple options and only had a quit rate of 9.9%, indicating they were almost 50% less successful in their attempt to quit smoking.
These success rates may sound low and we still need to see the long-term effects, but compared to only 3% quit rate of smokers who quit on their own, the results are promising.
For those who want to enhance their chance to quit smoking two to six times, vaping may provide a reasonably safe alternative.