E-cigarettes are no more effective at helping smokers quit than going cold turkey, a study suggests.
Just 10 per cent of smokers who relied on vapes to ditch their habit were successful in quitting for 12 months.
For comparison, the figure stood at around a fifth for smokers who shunned nicotine gums, patches or tablets and gave up without any extra help.
The findings, by US researchers, cast doubt on the wisdom that e-cigarettes are one of the best ways to help smokers quit.
Currently, the NHS advises that vaping can help smokers – though it is not available on prescription.
But England is set to become the first country in the world to prescribe e-cigarettes to help smokers quit, if Government plans are given the go ahead.
University of California researchers used survey data from 3,000 smokers who had recently attempted to quit the habit, and over 1,000 recent former smokers.
A US study suggests those wanting to quit smoking may want to shy away from e-cigarettes after finding those who used the devices
Almost all children have tobacco on their hands, even in non-smoking homes
Young children are picking up ‘thirdhand smoke’ by touching and ingesting the chemical residue smokers and vapers leave behind on everyday surfaces.
Researchers from San Diego State University and the University of Cincinnati swabbed the hands of children 11-years-of-age and younger to measure the levels of nicotine present, an indicator of thirdhand smoke exposure.
Over 97 per cent of the 504 children in the study had some level of nicotine present on their hands.
Shockingly, this was even true for 95 per cent of children in non-smoking households.
The researchers published their findings in the JAMA Open Network.
The surveys — used for the study published in the journal Tobacco Control — were conducted between 2017 and 2019.
In their research, a successful quit attempt was defined as abstaining from tobacco products like cigarettes for 12 months or more.
Participants were asked what kind of product they were using to try to snuff out their habit.
The researchers looked at people trying to quit smoking cigarettes and those trying quit all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
If they were using e-cigarettes, they were quizzed what nicotine strength product they used between 0-4 per cent or higher.
They were also asked about their level of tobacco dependency, such as how often they smoked, and how long they had been a smoker.
Most of the smokers trying to quit (64 per cent) had attempted going cold turkey, which the NHS recommends against.
The others either used e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) which can be prescribed to people trying to quit smoking in Britain.
By 2019, only 10 per cent of those who attempted to use e-cigarettes to quit in 2017 were successful.
This was compared to 19 per cent of those who used no products at all.
Scientists also calculated e-cigarettes were associated with seven fewer successful attempts per 100 would-be quitters, than other pharmaceutical aids.
Additionally, nearly 60 per of recent ex-smokers who vaped daily resumed traditional smoking by 2019.
Dr John Pierce, study author, said: ‘This analysis didn’t show a cessation benefit from using e-cigarettes either to help or as a substitute for cigarette smoking.’
However, he added that a further study is required to measure the impact on higher strength nicotine vapes, which have become more common since 2019, on smoking cessation rates.
But some British experts have criticised the study. Professor John Britton, from the University of Nottingham, said its conclusions were incorrect by looking at people who failed to quit smoking in the past.
‘The findings…are fundamentally flawed by confounding by severity, whereby the heaviest (most addicted) smokers, having tried and failed to quit using NRT or other treatments in the past, or who have declined to try to quit in the past, then try e-cigarettes,’ he said.
He said this why the findings conflict with other studies that show e-cigarettes are effective quitting aids.
The study was only observational, meaning it could not establish why people trying to quite smoking using e-cigarettes were less successful.
But the findings cast some doubt on UK Government plans to prescribe e-cigarettes on the NHS to smokers trying quit.
Regulators have published updated guidance that paves the way for medicinally licensed e-cigarette products to be prescribed for tobacco smokers who want to stop smoking and switch to vaping instead.
The move could see England become the first country in the world to prescribe medicinally licensed e-cigarettes, currently used by about 3.6million adults.
The controversial move comes despite the World Health Organization saying last year that the devices are ‘undoubtedly harmful’.
While vaping is generally considered healthier than traditional smoking a plethora of studies have linked the habit to a number of health issues, from respiratory problems to erectile disfunction.
NHS bosses say the gadgets — which can cost between £20 and £30 — are ‘far less harmful’ than traditional cigarettes.
What is an e-cigarette and how is it different to smoking tobacco?
An electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) is a device that allows users to inhale nicotine by heating a vapour from a solution that contain nicotine, propylene and flavourings.
As there is no burning involved, there is no smoke like a traditional cigarette.
But while they have been branded as carrying a lower risk than cigarettes, an increasing swell of studies is showing health dangers.
E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, but the vapor does contain some harmful chemicals.
Nicotine is the highly addictive chemical which makes it difficult for smokers to quit.
Nearly three million people in Britain use e-cigarettes, and more than nine million Americans.
1. Standard e-cigarette
Battery-powered device containing nicotine e-liquid.
It vaporizes flavored nicotine liquid.
Very similar to normal e-cigarettes but with sleeker design and, in the US, a higher concentration of nicotine. In the UK and EU limited to 20 mg/ml.
Thanks to its ‘nicotine salts’, manufacturers claim one pod delivers the amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
It is composed of an e-cigarette (battery and temperature control), and a pod of e-liquid which is inserted at the end.
The liquid contains nicotine, chemicals and flavorings.
Like other vaping devices, it vaporizes the e-liquid.
3. IQOS by Philip Morris
Pen-shaped, charged like an iPod.
It is known as a ‘heat not burn’ smokeless device, heating tobacco but not burning it (at 350C compared to 600C as normal cigarettes do).
The company claims this method lowers users’ exposure to carcinogen from burning tobacco.