E-cigarettes show promise in helping smokers quit

09 September 2013

The first ever trial to compare e-cigarettes with nicotine patches shows comparable success in helping smokers to quit.

Researchers at the University of Auckland found that both methods resulted in roughly similar proportions of smokers using either method remained abstinent from smoking for six months after a 12 week course of patches or e-cigarettes. The study, published last week in The Lancet, is due to be presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) Annual Congress 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.

It is only the second controlled trial to be published which evaluates e-cigarettes and is the first ever trial to assess whether e-cigarettes are more or less effective than an established smoking cessation aid, nicotine patches, in helping smokers to quit. Led by CFAR member, Associate Professor Chris Bullen, director of the University of Auckland’s National Institute of Health Innovation (NIHI), a team of researchers (including CFAR Associate Director Dr Natalie Walker) recruited 657 smokers to the trial through adverts in local newspapers.

“While our results don’t show any clear-cut differences between e-cigarettes and patches in terms of quit success after six months, it certainly seems that e-cigarettes were more effective in helping smokers who didn’t quit to cut down,” says Associate Professor Bullen. “It’s also interesting that the people who took part in our study seemed to be much more enthusiastic about e-cigarettes than patches, as evidenced by the far greater proportion of people in both of the e-cigarette groups who said they’d recommend them to family or friends, compared to patches.”

“Our study establishes a critical benchmark for e-cigarette performance compared to nicotine patches and placebo e-cigarettes, but there is still so much that is unknown about the effectiveness and long-term effects of e-cigarettes”, he says. Read more in the University of Auckland media release on 'Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation: a randomised controlled trial'

Download an open access full text pdf (577 KB) of the trial results, Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation: a randomised controlled trial, published in The Lancet on 8 September 2013.

Further reading:

The study has generated significant media and public interest in New Zealand and internationally.  A selection of news articles can be accessed below:

NZHeraldSexy and safe? How new fake cigarettes help smokers quit
TVNZ: E-cigarettes no better than patches
TV3: Study: E-cigarettes on a par with patches
BBC: E-cigarettes 'as effective' as nicotine patches
The IndependentE-cigarettes more effective than nicotine patches, study finds
New ScientistE-cigarettes help you quit as well as nicotine patches
Huffington PostElectronic Cigarettes Help You Quit Smoking As Well As Nicotine Patches: Study