New study shows e-cigarettes significantly helped smokers quit

People who used e-cigarettes to try to quit smoking were significantly more likely to succeed than those who bought over-the-counter cessation aids or tried to go cold turkey, according to British researchers.

The study — of 5,863 adults who wanted to stop smoking — was conducted by University College London researchers and is scheduled to be published in the journal Addiction on Wednesday.

Twenty percent of those who used e-cigarettes reported they had quit smoking tobacco and were still off cigarettes at the time the survey was taken. Ten percent of those who used nicotine patches or gums said they had quit, and about 15 percent of those who used nothing said they stopped smoking.

“The potential public health aspect to e-cigarettes is they seem to tap into a widespread appeal that these types of cessation methods have never managed to do,” Jamie Brown, one of the study’s authors, said in an interview Tuesday. “Insofar as e-cigarettes helped people to stop, then the fact that they are so widely used could suggest that it would have a quite positive public health effect.”

About 42 million Americans smoke tobacco, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 68 percent are trying to quit.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a nicotine-laced liquid that produces an inhaled vapor. Still, they are lightly regulated in the United States, their nicotine levels vary and there have been some reports of carcinogens present in the vapor.

E-cigarettes appear to be better at helping people quit because they are a novel way of consuming nicotine. “Vaping” provides a similar “sensory experience” to smoking, Brown said.

Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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