E-cigs help 50K-plus smokers in the UK quit nicotine each year

Despite a litany of bad press in recent months, a study published Oct. 17 in Addiction suggests e-cigarettes help some 50,000 smokers in the U.K. quit nicotine each year.

The study, led by researchers at University College London and supported by Cancer Research UK, drew data from the Smoking Toolkit Study, a series of monthly cross-sectional household surveys dating back to 2006. Around 1,200 past-year smokers per quarter—a total of 50,498—were involved in the study, which included data on smokers aged 16 and up in England between 2006 and 2017.

Using time series analysis, lead author Emma Beard and colleagues found that as the use of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool started increasing in 2011, so did the success rate of quitting in the U.K. When that increase plateaued around 2015, so did the success rate.

“This study builds on population surveys and clinical trials that find e-cigarettes can help smokers to stop,” Beard said in a release. “England seems to have found a sensible balance between regulation and promotion of e-cigarettes. Marketing is tightly controlled so we are seeing very little use of e-cigarettes by never-smokers of any age while millions of smokers are using them to try to stop smoking or to cut down the amount they smoke.”

Taking into consideration patients’ current e-cigarette use, their use during a quit attempt, quit success rate and average cigarette consumption, Beard and her team estimated that in 2017, e-cigarettes helped between 50,700 and 69,930 smokers in the U.K. quit traditional cigarettes.

As recent news has shown, though, e-cigs can also have detrimental health effects.

“E-cigarettes are a relatively new product,” George Butterworth, of Cancer Research UK, said. “They aren’t risk free and we don’t yet know their long-term impact. But research so far shows that vaping is less harmful than smoking tobacco and can help people to stop smoking, so it’s good that over 50,000 people managed to give up in 2017.”