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Quitters do as well using e-cigarettes as with NRT


Smokers who want to quit do as well with electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) as with nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) patches, a clinical trial conducted in New Zealand suggests (Lancet online 8 September 2013).

The trial — the first to compare e-cigarettes with NRT — involved 657 adults who were provided with 13 weeks’ supply of the smoking cessation aids. Carbon monoxide testing was used to measure abstinence. Telephone support was available but fewer than half the participants accessed this.

The researchers report that treatment was “modestly effective”: six-month abstinence rates were 7.3 per cent, 5.8 per cent, and 4.1 per cent, respectively, for people receiving nicotine e-cigarettes, NRT patches and placebo e-cigarettes. These differences were not statistically significant.

Among people who did not manage to quit, more in the nicotine e-cigarette group than the NRT group had reduced their daily cigarette consumption by at least half at six months. There was no significant difference in adverse events between the groups but the researchers emphasise that more research is needed into longer-term safety of e-cigarettes.

In an accompanying editorial, Peter Hajek, from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, Queen Mary University of London, comments: “Health professionals will now hopefully feel easier about recommending e-cigarettes to smokers, or at least condoning their use.”

In the UK, it was recently announced that e-cigarettes are to be regulated as medicines from 2016 (PJ 2013;290:691).

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11125351

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