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Vapes help more smokers quit than nicotine replacement therapy, latest Cochrane review finds

January 9, 2024

Photo: iStock

Nicotine e-cigarettes are more effective in helping people quit smoking than conventional nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT), the Cochrane review, considered to be gold standard quality, has once again confirmed.

The review of studies published on the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews on Monday found high certainty evidence that e-cigarettes, which allow users to vape nicotine instead of smoke it, lead to better chances of  quitting smoking than patches, gums, lozenges or other traditional NRT.

“In England, quite different from the rest of the world, e-cigarettes have been embraced by public health agencies as a tool to help people reduce the harm from smoking,” said Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, assistant professor of health policy and promotion at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US, said.

“Most of the adults in the US who smoke want to quit but many find it really difficult to do so,” added Hartmann-Boyce, who conducted research at the University of Oxford in England before joining UMass Amherst earlier this year. “We need a range of evidence-based options for people to use to quit smoking, as some people will try many different ways of quitting before finding one that works for them.”

Hartmann-Boyce, a Cochrane editor, is senior author of the review, which included 88 studies and more than 27,235 participants – an addition of 10 studies since the last update in 2022. Most of the studies analyzed took place in the US, United Kingdom or Italy.

The November 2022 review has found ‘high certainty’ evidence that people are more likely to stop smoking for at least six months using nicotine e-cigarettes, or vapes, than using nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches and gums.

“We have very clear evidence that, though not risk free, nicotine e-cigarettes are substantially less harmful than smoking,” Hartmann-Boyce said. “Some people who haven’t had success in the past with other quit aids have found e-cigarettes have helped them.”

The analysis found that for every 100 people using nicotine e-cigarettes to stop smoking, eight to 10 would be expected to successfully stop, compared with six of 100 people using traditional nicotine-replacement therapy, and with four of 100 trying to quit with no support or behavioral support only.

The regular review of smoking cessation studies continues to offer strong evidence that can inform public health policies and strategies, offering people who smoke better tools to quit for good.

While those who don’t smoke tobacco should avoid the use of e-cigarettes for their potential negative health effects, Hartmann-Boyce said, some people who smoke can improve their health and reduce their risks by quitting tobacco with the help of e-cigarettes.

“Not everything is either entirely harmful or beneficial,” Hartmann-Boyce said. “Different things can have different impacts on different populations. Evidence shows that nicotine e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking, and that people who don’t smoke shouldn’t use e-cigarettes.”