E-cigarettes were just about as effective as nicotine patches in helping smokers quit in the first trial to compare the two products, though scientists caution that more research is needed to study the long-term effects of such products.
An e-cigarette is a cylinder with a battery-operated heating element that turns a special liquid mixture – usually containing nicotine, but not always – into vapor. It is still unclear whether e-cigarettes are safer than conventional tobacco products. But even so, some health officials think that e-cigarettes could be a helpful tool for those looking to kick the habit.
For a new study published in The Lancet [PDF], researchers recruited 657 adult smokers in New Zealand who were looking to quit smoking. From one week before their designated quit day to 12 weeks after, participants were given one of the following: e-cigarettes, nicotine patches, or a placebo e-cigarette with no nicotine.
When the researchers followed up with the participants six months later, 7.3 percent of the 289 people in the nicotine e-cigarette group were still successfully abstaining from conventional tobacco products; in the patches group, that figure was 5.8 percent; and in the placebo e-cigarettes group, just 4.1 percent of smokers successfully quit.