Long-time smokers may find e-cigarettes a useful tool for quitting, a new study has found. Photo by Free-Photos/Pixabay
Nov. 10 (UPI) -- A combination of e-cigarettes and counseling is twice as effective at getting smokers of traditional cigarettes to quit as a program with counseling alone, at least in the short term, a study published Tuesday by JAMA found.
Among smokers who used e-cigarettes that did not contain nicotine and underwent counseling sessions, 21% had stopped smoking after 24 weeks of treatment, according to the researchers.
Meanwhile, after 12 weeks of smoking cessation treatment, 22% of participants given e-cigarettes with nicotine in addition to receiving counseling had stopped smoking cigarettes, compared to 9% of those who had just counseling, the data showed.
After 24 weeks, 17% of the study participants smoking e-cigarettes and receiving counseling still were not smoking, while 10% of those in the counseling group had stopped.
Most of the study participants were long-time smokers and had tried other methods to quit, the researchers said.
"E-cigarettes are not a magic bullet for smoking cessation, but for some smokers who have failed to quit using other therapies, [they] may be useful," study co-author Dr. Mark J. Eisenberg told UPI.
"I would not use e-cigarettes as a first line therapy for smoking cessation, but they could be considered in cases where multiple other therapies have failed [and] only for short term use," said Eisenberg, a professor of cardiology and clinical epidemiology at Jewish General Hospital and McGill University in Montreal.
Although e-cigarettes are "almost assuredly safer" than conventional cigarettes, the long-term effects of their use remain unknown because they are relatively new, he said.
E-cigarettes generally contain lower quantities of the harmful chemicals found in conventional cigarettes, though they still contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many cigarette smokers have turned to e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit, but it is unclear whether this is an effective approach, the CDC said.
For this study, Eisenberg and his colleagues tested the three smoking cessation approaches in 376 adult smokers.
Roughly one-third of the study participants underwent cessation therapy with nicotine-based e-cigarettes and regular counseling sessions, one-third received e-cigarettes without nicotine plus counseling and the remainder underwent only regular counseling sessions, the researchers said.
Participants who received e-cigarettes -- either with nicotine or without -- were more likely to experience side effects, with nearly 95% reporting problems such as persistent cough and dry mouth, according to the researchers.
However, the findings suggest that these devices may be effective at helping some cigarette smokers quit, they said.
"Up until now, we have had relatively few clinical trials looking at the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation," Eisenberg said.
"There is now enough evidence to begin to intelligently discuss the potential use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation" and to rethink current guidelines on quitting."