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E-Cigarettes May Be as Effective as Patch to Help Smokers Quit
Taking a drag from an e-cigarette may be just as safe and effective as slapping on a nicotine patch for smokers struggling to quit, according to the first physician-run trial to compare the two products.
About one in 20 people who used either patches or e-cigarettes managed to quit completely six months after the test started, according to research published today in The Lancet. Meanwhile, users of electronic cigarettes -- battery-powered devices that deliver vaporized nicotine -- were more likely to have cut their use of the real thing in half even if they didn’t quit entirely.
E-cigarettes have taken Europe and the U.S. by storm. In France, there are more than 1 million regular users, according to a government commissioned report published in May. Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
The 657-person trial wasn’t big enough to draw definite conclusions about whether e-cigarettes are better than nicotine patches, researchers said. Still, the results should be a signal to the regulators in the U.S. and Europe now weighing restrictions on e-cigarettes, Peter Hajek, a professor of clinical psychology at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, said in a comment published alongside the results.
“Health professionals will now hopefully feel easier about recommending e-cigarettes to smokers, or at least condoning their use,” Hajek wrote.
If European and U.S. regulators treat e-cigarettes as medical devices, yet leave cigarettes on general sale, tobacco makers “will retain their market monopoly, and we will never learn whether e-cigarettes would replace traditional cigarettes if allowed to continue evolving and competing with smoked tobacco on even terms,” he wrote.
The results will also be presented today at the European Respiratory Society’s annual meeting in Barcelona.
E-cigarettes have taken Europe and the U.S. by storm. In France, there are more than 1 million regular users, according to a government-commissioned report published in May. Sales worldwide will probably approach $2 billion by the end of this year and top $10 billion by 2017, according to a forecast by Wells Fargo & Co.
That success has brought scrutiny. The French government said it planned to ban e-cigarettes from public places. The U.K. has moved to treat them as medicines. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration may announce potential restrictions as soon as next month.