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Calls to consider e-cigarettes a first line therapy for smoking cessation

New research shows effectiveness of e-cigarettes i
Photo: Calls to consider e-cigarettes a first line therapy for smoking cessation
E-cigarettes may be more effective in helping smokers quit than nicotine replacement therapies such as patches and gum, according to University of Queensland research.

Lead author Dr Gary Chan from UQ’s National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research said there was increased global evidence to support the effectiveness of using e-cigarettes to assist smokers in quitting.

“E-cigarettes have the potential to accelerate the decline of cigarette smoking.”

“The evidence needs to be used to reconsider how we could harness their potential to end the cigarette smoking epidemic.”

Dr Chan told HealthTimes that while there has been much coverage in the media around the dangers of e-cigarettes, tobacco continues to cause more deaths than any other consumer product in human history – with more than eight million premature deaths from smoking-related diseases each year.
“Most of the harm from cigarette is not from nicotine per se. It is from the carcinogens from the burning process.”

“Of course, while [the] e-cigarette is not harmless, it is much less harmful the cigarette” he added.

“There could be huge gain in public health if we can transition smokers from cigarette to e-cigarette, particularly for those who have trouble quitting using other methods.”

Dr Chan’s research found that e-cigarettes were 50 per cent more effective than nicotine replacement therapy, and more than 100 per cent more effective than the placebo.

“We hope the findings from this study can be used to better inform policies around e-cigarettes and cigarette smoking,” he said.

The study looked at 16 different smoking and vaping trials, with a total of 12,754 participants.

It assessed e-cigarettes and approved nicotine replacement therapies including nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, mouth spray, inhalators and intranasal sprays.

“We reviewed all existing evidence and compared e-cigarettes, traditional nicotine replacement therapy and placebos to find the best substitute for helping smokers quit and make lasting behavioural change,” Dr Chan said.

He added that electronic cigarettes containing nicotine may be more effective than nicotine replacement products because they deliver a small amount of nicotine to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, and provide a similar behavioural and sensory experience as smoking tobacco products.

Currently, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends e-cigarettes as a second line treatment to support smoking cessation. Dr Chan said this was possibly due to the recommendation being based on older trials that used less efficient e-cigarettes.

“However, in light of our findings, this recommendation could be re-evaluated.”

Dr Chan said that he hoped that this research, and similar studies, could trigger wider scale change.

“At the moment, cigarettes can be sold nearly everywhere – for example, in supermarkets and petrol stations, but it is much more difficult to purchase e-cigarettes. This needs to be changed.”

“First, we will need to further restrict access to cigarettes. For example, only allow cigarettes to be sold in licensed premises”, he said.

“At the same time, we should allow e-cigarettes to be sold at the same licensed premises. What we are doing now is the complete opposite – continuing to allow cigarettes to be sold everywhere but make it harder for smokers to purchase e-cigarettes.”

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Charlotte Mitchell

Charlotte is a published journalist and editor, with 10 years of experience in developing high-quality content for national and international publications.

With an academic background in both science and communications, she specialises in medical and science writing. Charlotte is passionate about creating engaging, evidence-based content that equips the community with important information on issues around healthcare, medicine and research.

Over the years, she has partnered with organisations including the Medical Journal of Australia, Cancer Council NSW, Bupa, the Australasian Medical Publishing Company, Dementia Australia, MDA National, pharmaceutical companies, and state and federal government agencies, to produce high-impact news and clinical content  for different audiences.