Electronic Cigarettes to Quit Smoking: Better than the Patch?

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Electronic cigarettes are increasing in popularity among middle and high school kids. Image by Gloriaricardi

Electronic cigarettes are increasing in popularity among middle and high school kids. Image by Gloriaricardi

Electronic cigarettes are a replacement for actual cigarettes that may help people to quit smoking, but how effective are they?

E-cigarettes are reusable and battery operated, and they work by heating up liquid nicotine that turns into a vapor that the user inhales.

Although electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes don’t contain as many harmful ingredients as the real thing, they do contain chemicals that can be hazardous to your health.

Quit Smoking With E-Cigs? The Lancet Study

In a study published in the British journal, The Lancet, entitled, “Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation: a randomised controlled trial” researchers investigated whether or not electronic cigarettes were more effective at helping smokers quit than the nicotine patch. The study was conducted in Auckland New Zealand between September 6, 2011 and July 5, 2013, and included 657 smokers ages 18 years old and older who wanted to quit smoking.

Researchers randomized the participants into three groups: 289 tried the e-cigarettes, 295 used the nicotine patch, and 73 people got a placebo e-cigarette. The results at six months found that the electronic cigarettes were slightly more effective at helping people abstain from smoking than the nicotine patch; 7.3 percent of the e-cigarette users succeeded versus 5.8 percent for the patch.

The researchers concluded, that while c-cigarettes were slightly more effective than the nicotine patch, more studies are necessary to determine the overall benefit and harms of electronic cigarettes.

The health effects of e-cigarettes are not fully known; although they are helping people quit smoking. Image by cigarettec.

The health effects of e-cigarettes are not fully known; although they are helping people quit smoking. Image by cigarettec.

Teen E-Cigarette Use: CDC Study

Although electronic cigarettes maybe helping smokers quit, they are also encouraging teenagers to try the new fad.

Electronic cigarettes come in a variety of flavors such as cookies and cream milkshake, strawberry, and cherry. Since they are not a tobacco product, teenagers in many parts of the country can buy them, in stores or online.

To determine whether or not e-cigarettes are increasing in use by the United States’ youth, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at data from the 2011 and 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

The National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) is given to kids in middle and high school and asks them to estimate their use of e-cigarettes, if at all. The survey also asks the same questions about conventional cigarettes.

Researchers complied the data from the NYTS and found that among middle schoolers, the number of kids who have tried e-cigarettes increased from 1.4 percent to 2.7 percent, and the number of kids who are current users increased from 0.6 percent to 1.1 percent.

Use among high school kids is increasing as well. Researchers found that the number of teens who have tried e-cigarettes has increased from 4.7 percent to 10 percent, and the number of current users has increased from 1.2 percent to 2.2 percent.

Overall recent use and e-cigarette experimentation doubled among U.S. middle and high school students during 2011 -2012. This results in an estimated 1.7 million more students trying out or habitually using e-cigarettes in 2012.

Quitting Smoking Or Training Smokers?

While electronic cigarettes may help adult smokers quit smoking, they are also appealing to our youth. Not only could these trendy devices get kids hooked on nicotine, they’re also not yet regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have been known to explode and cause serious injury. Smokers beware?

Resources

Bullen, C., Howe, C., Laugesen, M., et al. Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation: a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet. (2013). Accessed September 15, 2013.

Boston Globe. E-cigarettes may have a place — just not with minors. (2013). Accessed September 15, 2013.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Notes from the Field: Electronic Cigarette Use Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2011–2012. (2013). Accessed September 15, 2013.

CNN News. E-cigarettes: Healthy tool or gateway device? (2013). Accessed September 15, 2013.

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