Taking a drag from an e-cigarette may be just as safe and effective as slapping on a nicotine patch for smokers struggling to quit, according to the first physician-run trial to compare the two products.
About one in 20 people who used either patches or e-cigarettes managed to quit completely six months after the test started, according to research published today in The Lancet. Meanwhile, users of electronic cigarettes — battery-powered devices that deliver vaporized nicotine — were more likely to have cut their use of the real thing in half even if they didn’t quit entirely.
The 657-person trial wasn’t big enough to draw definite conclusions about whether e-cigarettes are better than nicotine patches, researchers said. Still, the results should be a signal to the regulators in the U.S. and Europe now weighing restrictions on e-cigarettes, Peter Hajek, a professor of clinical psychology at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, said in a comment published alongside the results.
“Health professionals will now hopefully feel easier about recommending e-cigarettes to smokers, or at least condoning their use,” Hajek wrote.