E-Cigarettes Help Smokers Quit, Study Says

vaping electronic cigarettes
A new study says that e-cigs might be better at helping smokers quit than patches or gum. Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

A new study might clear some of the air in the e-cigarette debate: Researchers in the U.K. claim that e-cig users are 60 percent more likely to quit smoking than smokers who use traditional methods such as nicotine patches or gum.

The research, published in the journal Addiction, also found that e-cigarette users were nearly 60 percent more likely to quit tobacco than smokers who go cold turkey.

Researchers surveyed 5,863 smokers from 2009 and 2014 and found that of those who switched to e-cigs, 20 percent said they quit smoking with the help of these devices.

"E-cigarettes could substantially improve public health because of their widespread appeal and the huge health gains associated with stopping smoking," the senior author of the study, professor Robert West of University College London's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said in a statement.

West does have one caveat: Smokers in the U.K. are most likely to quit when using the National Health System's cessation services, which include counseling and free prescription medication. These services "almost triple a smoker's odds of successfully quitting, compared with going it alone or relying on over-the-counter products," he said.

Non-U.K. experts also widely recognize smokers are most likely to quit with a combination of medications and counseling. While people who try to quit without medications or support have a success rate of approximately 5 percent, those using a combination approach might have a success rate of 40 to 50 percent.

The study comes amid increased scrutiny of e-cigarettes across the U.S., including indoor vaping bans and the Food and Drug Administration's push to regulate e-cigs like tobacco cigarettes. The FDA has proposed that manufacturers should register with the agency and "report product and ingredient listings," as well as market new products only after an FDA review.

The study stands at odds with the FDA's impetus toward crackdown: The agency claims its scrutiny of the $2 billion vaping industry stems from fears that e-cigarettes will thwart smoking cessation efforts. The agency also worries that e-cigarettes might make children curious about smoking.

However, the growing ranks of "vapers" will most likely relish the news. Despite the FDA's fears that e-cigarettes will interest people in tobacco cigarettes, many vapers say the practice has helped them quit.