Here Comes the Science: E-Cigarettes vs Approved NRTs
Like many others, I once assumed that the government approved list of NRTs (nicotine replacement therapies) represented the best and only options for smokers trying to kick the habit. However, a growing body of scientific evidence indicates that the pharmacological smoking cessation methods advocated by governments in Australia and abroad, are on the whole sadly ineffective.
Gum, Patches, Lozenges and Other Approved Drugs
A study by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Center for Global Tobacco Control found that nicotine gum and patches only helped smokers quit for short periods, with most likely to start smoking again within a six months. Similarly, research studies carried out in the UK in 2005 and Australia in 2006 study found that the cold turkey approach was more effective in the long-run than nicotine patches, lozenges, gum and the drug Zyban.
And despite all of the hubbub about the resounding efficacy of the drug Champix, a closer examination of the numbers tells a different story. In his letter to the scholarly journal Addiction, University of Newcastle Professor Raoul Walsh expressed concern about the staggering amounts of money the Australian government was spending on the drug Champix despite drug approval studies indicating that it was no more effective that over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies.
These findings, of course, contradict what pharmaceutical companies and government drug approval agencies around the world have said about the efficacy of these therapies. What they fail to tell you is that the lab conditions under which these drugs are tested are far removed from what goes on in the real world. In fact, the Harvard study even found that in reality smokers weren’t as vigilant about using the therapies they were supposed to be testing and often failed to apply or consume them as directed.
While evidence is mounting against the so-called conventional “wisdom”, scientific evidence proving the effectiveness of the electronic cigarette is growing. A 2011 study led by the Boston University School of Public Health found that electronic cigarettes were twice more effective than the traditional nicotine replacement products in helping smokers quit. Of those participating in the study, after six months 34.3% had stopped smoking or using nicotine products, while 67% had reduced the number of cigarettes they smoked after trying vaping.
A pilot study undertaken in 2011 at Italy’s University of Catania yielded similar results. Over half of participants in that study had cut their cigarette consumption by at least half, while almost a quarter had quit altogether after being introduced to the electronic cigarette.
I look forward to seeing the scientific case in favour of e-cigs continue to grow, so this innovative product can start to make a serious contribution to saving the lives of Australian smokers.
A Tool to Quit Smoking Has Some Unlikely Critics, The New York Times, 7 November 2011
Nicotine Gum and Patch Don’t Help Smokers Quit Long Term, TIME – Healthland, 9 January 2012
Cold Turkey Twice as Effective as NRT or Zyban, WhyQuit News, 19 May 2006
Chatix / Champix Worth Questioned, WhyQuit News, 6 January 2011
Electronic Cigarettes Hold Promise as Aid to Quitting, Study Finds, Science Daily, 8 February 2011
Alpert, HR et al, A prospective cohort study challenging the effectiveness of population-based medical intervention for smoking cessation, Tobacco Control, January 2012
Doran, CM et al, Smoking status of Australian general practice patients and their quit attempts, Addictive Behaviours, May 2006, Vol 31, Issue 5: pp758 – 766
Ferguson, J et al, The English smoking treatment services: one-year outcomes, Addiction, April 2005, Issue 100, Suppl 2: pp 59-69
Siegel, MB et al, Electronic Cigarettes As a Smoking-Cessation Tool, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2011;
Disclaimer: Electronic cigarettes are not currently on the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s list of approved NRT products. See here for more details.