02 Oct

The Potential of the Electronic Cigarette as an Effective Aid to Quitting Smoking

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health found that electronic cigarettes are nearly twice as effective as other nicotine replacements therapies such as gums, lozenges, patches and puffers at helping people stop smoking.

The electronic cigarette, which is also known as the e cigarette, electric cigarette or e cig, is a battery operated device that looks like a normal tobacco cigarette and produces a vapour that is inhaled and exhaled in the same way as tobacco smoke. Rather than containing dried tobacco leaves, it contains a liquid usually composed of vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol.

The study found that 31 per cent of respondents reported that they had successfully stopped smoking for a six month period with the aid of the e cigarette. This is significantly greater than the abstinence rate for traditional nicotine replacement therapy products that most people are familiar with such as gums, lozenges, patches and puffers which have a success rate of between 12 and 18 per cent.

On the potential health benefits of electronic cigarettes, one of the authors of the study, Dr Michael Siegel, said that “this study suggests that electronic cigarettes are helping thousands of ex-smokers remain off cigarettes”, but added that more research was necessary: “they [e cigarettes] are worthy of further study using more rigorous research designs.”

One possible explanation for the greater success of the electronic cigarette over traditional nicotine replacement therapies might be the link between the physical simulation of smoking associated with e cigarettes. Dr Siegel elaborated on this: “While it is well-recognized that nicotine plays a role in smoking addiction, little attention has been given to the behavioral aspects of the addiction”. Furthermore, he said that “these devices simulate the smoking experience, which appears to make them effective as a smoking cessation tool.”

Dr Siegel is a professor and lecturer in the Department of Community Health Services at Boston University. He has authored numerous academic books and articles and is recognised as an expert in the field of tobacco control. He has served as an expert witness in a number of major tobacco litigation cases in the United States.

Founded in 1976, the Boston University School of Public Health states that its mission is to “improve the health of local, national and international populations, particularly the disadvantaged, underserved and vulnerable, through excellence and innovation in education, research and service.”