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E-Cigarettes Equal Nicotine Patches for Quitting?

In study, electronic devices had edge over patches for people still trying to cut down
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

SATURDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Electronic cigarettes and nicotine patches are equally effective at helping smokers quit, according to findings from what's thought to be the first clinical trial to compare the two methods.

However, e-cigarettes were more effective in reducing cigarette use among smokers who didn't quit.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals. They turn these substances into vapor that is inhaled by the user.

The new study included 657 smokers who used either e-cigarettes, fake e-cigarettes (they didn't contain any nicotine) or nicotine patches for 13 weeks. At the end of the six-month study, about 6 percent of the participants had successfully quit.

Rates of those who successfully quit were 7.3 percent in the e-cigarette group, 5.8 percent in the nicotine patch group and 4.1 percent in the fake e-cigarette group.

These differences were not statistically significant, according to study leader Chris Bullen, director of the National Institute for Health Innovation at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and colleagues.

The findings suggest that e-cigarettes are comparable to nicotine patches in helping people quit smoking for at least six months.

Among participants who did not quit smoking, 57 percent of those in the e-cigarette group had reduced their daily consumption of cigarettes by at least half after six months, compared with 41 percent of those in the nicotine patch group, according to the study published online Sept. 7 in The Lancet and presented at the annual meeting of the European Respiratory Society, held in Barcelona, Spain.

About 90 percent of those who used e-cigarettes -- including the fake version -- would recommend them to family and friends, compared with 56 percent of those in the nicotine patch group, the researchers said. They also concluded that e-cigarettes are comparable to nicotine patches in terms of safety.

"While our results don't show any clear-cut differences between e-cigarettes and patches in terms of quit success after six months, it certainly seems that e-cigarettes were more effective in helping smokers who didn't quit to cut down," Bullen said in a journal news release.

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