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New Study Shows Vaping Helps Smokers Quit Tobacco

A new study into the effects of vaping on smoking cessation has added fresh evidence to the debate on banning or limiting access to vapes. The results of the study, thought to be the largest ever conducted, were published in the New England Journal of Medicine last week, and make for an interesting read.

According to researchers from the University of Bern, Switzerland, vaping can be almost twice as effective in helping people quit tobacco than a combination of smoking-cessation counseling and optional Nicotine-Replacement Therapy (NRT).

While this finding might be obvious to the countless number of people who have found vaping to be the most powerful way to quit tobacco, a study of this type could go a long way in proving to the people in power that responsible vaping has a role to play in helping cut down the number of smokers in the world. 

ENDS for Smoking Cessation Study

The study was open to adults 18 years of age or older who had smoked at least five cigarettes per day for at least 12 months and wanted to quit smoking within 3 months after enrollment. The 1246 selected participants were split into two equally-sized groups, with one group given e-cigarette devices, e-liquids, and advice on quitting smoking. The control group was given only counseling and a voucher that could be used for any purpose, including NRTs.

Note: Of the control group, 3.9% reported using e-cigarettes, 63.6% nicotine-replacement therapy, and 4.1% other smoking-cessation drug therapy. 

After six months, continuous abstinence from smoking occurred in 28.9% (180 of 622) of the participants in the intervention group (vaping) and in 16.3% (102 of 624) in the control group (counseling/NRTs). In the seven days before the end of the study, total abstinence from tobacco rose to 59.6% (329 of 552) in the intervention group and 38.5% (194 of 504) in the control group. 

A higher percentage of participants in the vaping group also reported suffering from no withdrawal symptoms, and more often reported a lack of respiratory symptoms such as coughing, phlegm, and shortness of breath.  

The study concluded that: “The addition of e-cigarettes to standard smoking-cessation counseling resulted in greater abstinence from tobacco use among smokers than smoking-cessation counseling alone.”

Nicotine Abstinence

The results of the study were not entirely in favor of vaping over other smoking cessation methods. The proportion of participants who reported nicotine abstinence (rather than tobacco abstinence) after six months was higher in the control group (33%) than in the intervention group (20%). So although the vaping group did better at staying tobacco-free, they did worse at giving up the addiction to nicotine entirely. 

Researchers are thus far unsure if this result will change over a more extended period, and are planning to follow up with the participants in 12, 24, and 60 months to learn more. 

Reaction to the Study

Reaction to the results of this study is already mixed. Dr Colin Mendelsohn, a retired academic, researcher, and smoking cessation clinician, said: 

“This large, well-conducted, open-label, randomized controlled trial found that e-cigarettes with nicotine combined with standard counseling were substantially more effective in helping motivated smokers to quit than standard counseling alone.

About half of the abstainers in the intervention group continued to vape at the end of the study. Continued vaping carries only a small fraction of the risk of smoking and can help to prevent relapse. Some continuing vapers will cease vaping over time. Importantly, vaping was well tolerated with no increase in severe adverse effects. Respiratory symptoms improved in the intervention group to a larger extent than for subjects in the control group.”

In contrast, Associate Professor Michelle Jongenelis from The University of Melbourne offered a more cautious take on the findings, stating: 

“While these research findings provide some promising evidence that nicotine e-cigarettes may assist smokers to quit, it is important to recognize that the study did not formally compare the use of e-cigarettes with other effective approaches to smoking cessation, such as nicotine replacement therapy or pharmacotherapy (e.g., varenicline, cytisine).”

Russ Ware Author Picture 2

Russ Ware

Russ is a UK-based Staff Writer for Versed Vaper who has been in journalism for more than two decades, having previously written for tech publications like Lifewire. He tried vaping in 2015 but the setup that he was using wasn’t quite right and so he didn’t enjoy it at first. However, after going back and forth between vaping and smoking for a couple of years, he started experimenting with different coils, power levels, and mixing his own vape juice. The rest is history and Russ has been a devoted vaper ever since. Russ is a passionate writer and he produces reviews, news, and well-researched informational articles for our site. When Russ is not testing or writing about vapes, he likes to travel, read true crime, and eat anything with lots of chilies.

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