The debate about electronic cigarettes rages on. A recent English study reported by “Addiction: The Journal of the Society for the Study of Addiction” (May 2014) determined that smokers attempting to quit nicotine for good were more likely to accomplish their goal with e-cigarettes. The study compared the use of electronic cigarettes, nicotine patches, or nicotine gums. Although the study’s results are favorable, it’s still too soon to know the risks or benefits of these very popular nicotine delivery devices.
The study focused on six thousand current smokers in England. The smokers decided to quit tobacco on their own without engaging a health counselor. About twenty percent of those using electronic cigarettes said they weren’t smoking at the time the survey was concluded. About ten percent of those using other smoking cessation products also reported they’d stopped smoking.
Importance of the English E-Cigarettes Study
A spokesperson for the American Cancer Society said, “This study will not settle the e-cigarette issue by any means, but it is further evidence that, in a real-world context, e-cigarettes can be a useful, although not revolutionary, tool in helping some smokers to stop.”
Although the English study wasn’t a clinical trial—in which a certain percentage of individuals trying to stop smoking would use electronic cigarettes instead of other smoking cessation tools—addiction researchers around the world believe it offers “valuable insights into the real world experiences of smokers.”
According to Robert West, one of the study’s authors and director of the Tobacco Studies Program at University College-London, said “Clinical trials could not answer the question…most…have about whether electronic cigarettes help smokers quit…because the devices…are changing so fast that they become obsolete…before an experiment ends.” He believes that individuals with a preference to use electronic cigarettes as a tool to stop smoking would drop out of a study that assigned them to nicotine patches, for example.
Professor West is optimistic about the use of electronic cigarettes and argues that necessary “epidemiological evidence” won’t be available to public health officials for decades but policy decisions about the devices are needed now. In an editorial submitted by Professor West, he writes that “more than five thousand lives would be saved for every million smokers who switched to e-cigarettes, even if the devices carried significant health risks and people used them indefinitely after quitting real cigarettes” and that “our job is to help policy makers protect those lives.”
Why Smokers Smoke
Researchers say that physiological and psychological addiction to smoking are the most important reasons that people smoke. Some anti-smoking groups say that individuals who continue to smoke should use every means possible to stop smoking.
This factor in the debate against e-cigarettes is puzzling. Even the U.S. Food & Drug Administration suspects that electronic cigarettes are less dangerous than tobacco products and new studies, such as the one presented here, seem to suggest that e-cigarettes are at least a bit less harmful to the human body than tobacco cigarettes.
Shouldn’t policymakers take a less strident approach to declaring war against e-cigarettes if their use can help some people quit for good? We’ve lived with tobacco products for hundreds of years and know that tobacco is tremendously addictive. Let’s give nicotine addicts who want to quit a fighting chance!
Unfinished Man’s editors don’t advocate that people who don’t smoke start smoking or vaping. But if you already smoke and want to quit, work with all the tools possible, including counselors and doctors, to stop. Get healthy, man!