Trying to quit smoking? Nicotine vapes may be 'most effective' method, says review

15 October 2020 - 08:00 By Kate Kelland
New evidence suggests vaping could boost the number of people who stop smoking. Stock image.
New evidence suggests vaping could boost the number of people who stop smoking. Stock image.
Image: iStock/6okean

Vapes containing nicotine are more effective in helping people quit smoking than patches or gum, and safer than cigarettes, though more evidence is needed on their potential long-term impacts, a new review of evidence found on Wednesday.

The findings, from a review which included evidence from 50 studies around the world, suggests vaping could boost the number of people who stop smoking — a habit known to cause deadly lung cancer and linked to heart disease, stroke and many other chronic diseases.

“There is now evidence that electronic cigarettes with nicotine are likely to increase the chances of quitting successfully compared to nicotine gum or patches,” said Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, an expert at the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group who co-led the review.

The review was conducted by Cochrane, an organisation that surveys scientific research to help guide policy. Its analyses are seen as high quality studies of the relative effectiveness of health interventions. E-cigarettes have been around for about a decade, and their popularity has increased significantly in recent years. Unlike gum and patches, they mimic cigarette smoking because they are hand-held and generate a smoke-like vapour.

A 2016 Cochrane Review also found e-cigarettes were more likely to help smokers quit than nicotine patches or gum, but the available body of evidence at that time was slimmer. A spate of vaping-related lung injuries and deaths in the US last year threw a spotlight on vaping and e-cigarettes, and prompted bans on some types of the products. But the outbreak was not linked to vapes that contain nicotine, and appeared to be waning late last year as evidence grew that vitamin E acetate, a cutting agent used in marijuana vapes, could be behind the cases.

The Cochrane team said they found no clear evidence in this review of serious harms from nicotine-containing e-cigarettes. They noted, however, that evidence about serious harms remains uncertain because the overall number of studies is still relatively small.

“Scientific consensus holds that electronic cigarettes are considerably less harmful than traditional cigarettes, but are not risk-free,” Hartmann-Boyce said.