E-cigarettes can help smokers quit—but do not use them casually, researchers warn

The combination of e-cigarettes containing nicotine and 12 weeks of counseling can help smokers quit more effectively than counseling alone. However, the research team warned, e-cigarettes should only be used for this specific purpose—casual use is still not recommended.

The findings were presented Monday, March 30, at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session Together with World Congress of Cardiology (ACC.20/WCC). A total of 376 long-time smokers from throughout Canada enrolled in the study, with participants averaging 21 cigarettes per day before research began. Ninety-one percent of participants had attempted to quit in the past but were unsuccessful.

While one-third of the study participants used e-cigarettes with nicotine, one-third was given e-cigarettes without nicotine, and the remaining one-third did not use e-cigarettes at all. All participants underwent approximately 100 minutes of counseling over the course of 12 weeks.

If a participant had not smoked a single cigarette after the full 12 weeks, the researchers viewed them as if they had officially quit. Overall, 21.9% of participants given e-cigarettes with nicotine had quit, 17.3% of participants given nicotine-free e-cigarettes had quit, and 9.1% of participants who only underwent counseling had quit.

“These findings show that nicotine e-cigarettes are effective for smoking cessation in the short term,” lead author Mark J. Eisenberg, MD, a professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, said in a statement. “Vaping with counseling is more effective than counseling alone, although it’s not a magic bullet for smoking cessation.”

Eisenberg noted that the potential health hazards associated with e-cigarette use make it necessary for more research in this area to be done. Until more information is known, he recommended that people only use e-cigarettes if they are actively trying to quit smoking under physician supervision.

“We desperately need information on whether e-cigarettes are effective for smoking cessation, but [we] also [need] safety data, as well,” he said in the statement.

The team will continue tracking these patients for one full year to learn more about the impact e-cigarettes can have on a person’s ability to quit smoking.