Scientists claim that smokers currently trying to quit are 60% more likely to succeed if switching to e-cigarettes than if they used patches, gum, or willpower to overcome addiction.
The results of a study, which focused on 6,000 smokers over the course of five years, suggest that e-cigarettes could play a significant role in reducing smoking rates, cutting tobacco-related deaths and illness.
In addition to lung cancer, smoking tobacco contributes to cardiovascular diseases, which causes the most deaths around the world.
“E-cigarettes could substantially improve public health because of their widespread appeal and the huge health gains associated with stopping smoking,” said Robert West of University College London’s epidemiology and public health department, who led the study in a statement to Reuters.
West’s study was largely funded by the charity Cancer Research UK, and published in the journal Addiction, it surveyed 5,863 smokers who attempted to quit smoking tobacco without using prescription medicines or professional help. The study ran from 2009 to 2014.
The results of West’s study were adjusted to consider additional influencers including age, nicotine dependency, previous attempts to quit, and whether quitting occurred abruptly or gradually.
Results showed that 20 percent of people trying to quit with the help of e-cigs reported success, in comparison to only 10 percent of those using over-the-counter solutions such as nicotine patches or gum. Out of those using willpower to quit, 15.4% were successful at quitting traditional cigarettes.
Still, as a relatively new product, e-cigarettes have become highly controversial, with public health opinion split over whether e-cigs are a helpful quitting tool, or whether they replace one bad habit with another. Critics point out the lack of long-term evidence, and feel that e-cigs may re-introduce smoking to the mainstream public and children.
“It’s not clear whether long-term use of e-cigarettes carries health risks, but from what is known about the contents of the these will be much less than from smoking [cigarettes],” West said.
West also noted evidence, which shows that smokers, who seek the help of professionals like doctors or health clinics, have the highest rates in quitting. According to the World Health Organization, smoking tobacco kills half of all those who did it, and accounts for 6 million deaths per year.