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Minute for Your Heart - Are E-cigarettes an effective smoking cessation aid?

Dr. Neil Agrawal joins us on the blog today to share information on the results of a new study examining the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid.

An electronic cigarette (or e-cigarette),
personal vaporizer (PV), or electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) is an
electronic inhaler. It has recently gained popularity with millions of people
trying it as a substitute or utilize as a cessation aid for traditional tobacco
cigarettes. There are 5.5 trillion cigarettes smoke globally.

Leading to:

than 440,000 deaths annually (including deaths from secondhand smoke)

deaths per year from secondhand smoke exposure

deaths annually among men (including deaths from secondhand smoke)

deaths annually among women (including deaths from secondhand smoke)

There has been no randomized trial until a recent
study published in The
Lancet, Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation
: a randomized
controlled trial, on Sept. 9, 2013. This was a randomized-controlled
superiority trial in Auckland, New Zealand, between Sept. 6, 2011, and July 5,
2013 that included approximately 650 patients.  They were divided into
groups of a 16 mg nicotine e-cigarettes, nicotine patches (21 mg patch, one
daily), or placebo e-cigarettes (no nicotine). They were followed for a week
before initiating cessation through 12 weeks after quit day. Each group had a
low intensity behavioral support via voluntary telephone counseling.
Researchers came to the conclusions:  “E-cigarettes, with or without
nicotine, were modestly effective at helping smokers to quit, with similar
achievement of abstinence as with nicotine patches, and few adverse events.
Uncertainty exists about the place of e-cigarettes in tobacco control, and more
research is urgently needed to clearly establish their overall benefits and
harms at both individual and population levels.”

My take home points are first, E cigarettes are
not inferior to the patch, however the long term safety is unknown. Secondly,
behavioral counseling was performed in all groups, which may have a huge impact
on smoking cessation.