by Naomi Kresege
Smokers who reached for e-cigarettes to try to quit were 60 percent more likely to succeed than those who used patches or gum, according to the biggest study of people who chose the devices to kick the habit.
British researchers surveyed 5,863 people who tried to abstain from tobacco between 2009 and 2014, as e-cigarettes gained popularity, according to the study published in the journal Addiction. About a fifth of the people who said they’d tried to quit in the past year using e-cigarettes said they still weren’t smoking at the time they were surveyed.
“This will not settle the e-cigarette issue by any means,” said Thomas J. Glynn, a researcher at the American Cancer Society, said of the study, which he was not involved in. “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.”
The study comes as governments wrestle with how to regulate the $3 billion market for e-cigarettes. The results are part of growing evidence suggesting that e-cigarettes should be considered for medical licensing, said lead author Jamie Brown, a researcher in the University College London’s Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology.
“It’s certainly one piece of the jigsaw puzzle,” Brown said.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration proposed last month to extend its oversight of the tobacco industry to include e-cigarettes. New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have banned their use in some public places.
One sticking point has been whether the battery-powered tubes with their clouds of nicotine vapor serve as a gateway for teenagers to start smoking the real thing. A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 10 American high-school students reported using an e-cigarette in 2012, compared with 4.7 percent a year earlier.
Tobacco companies such as Altria Group Inc., the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, and British American Tobacco, Europe’s largest cigarette maker, also produce e-cigarettes. The study was funded by Cancer Research U.K.
In England, smoking rates are declining and regular e-cigarette use among people who haven’t smoked the real thing is “negligible.”
Information from The New York Times was included in this story.