A new study has found that electronic cigarettes are a promising tool to help smokers quit, producing six-month abstinence rates nearly double those for traditional nicotine replacement products.
The study, led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers, found that 31 per cent of respondents reported having quit smoking six months after first purchasing an electronic cigarette, a battery-powered device providing tobacco-less doses of nicotine in a vaporized solution.
The average six-month abstinence rate for traditional nicotine replacement products, such as nicotine patches or gum, is between 12 and 18 per cent.
"This study suggests that electronic cigarettes are helping thousands of ex-smokers remain off cigarettes," said lead author Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences.
The researchers conducted an online survey of 222 first-time purchasers of electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, from a leading electronic cigarette distributor. Of those who were not smoking at six months, 34.3 per cent reported not using electronic cigarettes or any nicotine-containing products. Almost 67 per cent of respondents reported having reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked after using electronic cigarettes.
The study`s main limitation is the low response rate of 4.5 per cent. It is possible that those who responded to the survey were more likely to have quit smoking than those who did not respond. Nevertheless, despite this limitation, the study authors believe that this is the best evidence to date on the effectiveness of electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation.
They point out that this is the first survey that relied upon an unbiased sampling frame.
Despite the limitation, the authors conclude that electronic cigarettes "hold promise as a smoking-cessation method and that they are worthy of further study using more rigorous research designs."
The study has been published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine .