Study finds that electronic cigarettes can even help those that do not wish to be helped quit smoking

In a recent article in the journal PLOS ONE, a trial of electronic cigarettes in Italian smokers with no wish to quit using tobacco at the outset found an astonishing result. One year later, 13% of the people that took part were no longer smoking real cigarettes.

This was not a quit smoking study and even still over 50% of participants reduced their tobacco consumption soon after they started using e cigarettes. Equally as important, the results achieved for people that had quit smoking entirely by the end of the study rival those achieved with medications.

The Study

The study recruited 300 people between June 2010 and February 2011. Only current smokers who stated they had no intention of quitting in the near future. Each participant was then randomly designated to one of three groups.

Group 1 received electronic cigarettes with cartridges containing a nicotine concentration of 7.2 mg/ml.

Group 2 received the same as Group 1 but later in the study the nicotine concentration of the cartidges was reduced to 5.4 mg/ml.

Group 3 received e-cigarettes and cartridges containing only tobacco flavor but no nicotine.

Each participant received three months worth of supplies and had regular checkups throughout the year.

This new study, the first of its kind, followed hundreds of smokers for an entire year, however, it did not compare the devices to traditional NRT products, such as gum or patches.

The results

At the end of the study, 13% of Group 1 participants, 9% of Group 2 participants and 4% of Group 3 participants were no longer smoking.

Experts noted that as there was no control group receiving no e-cigarettes, it may well be that some of the participants would have quit anyway. However, this ignores the fact that none of the participants had any desire to quit at the outset and also the fact that those in Groups 2 and 3 that received lower nicotine concentrations were less likely to quit.

What can be taken away from this study

Dr. Riccardo Polosa, the new study's senior author from the University of Catania, told Reuters Health that "I think the main message of the study is that we can use these products as an extraordinary tobacco control tool"

Laugesen, a public health medicine specialist at Health New Zealand Ltd in Christchurch who as it happens is also involved in an e-cig trial due to report in September said, "it also has to be acknowledged that these are good results in people who had no intention of quitting."

Unlike traditional NRT products (gums etc.), e cigarettes both mimic the traditional smoking behaviour as well as providing a nicotine fix.

Researchers said that for the above reason, e-cigarettes might well be more effective at helping people to quit than patches and gums, but only further research will confirm whether this is the case."

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