Ground-breaking study supports e-cigarettes superiority over nicotine patchesIn the first head-to-head comparison between e-cigarettes and nicotine patches (NRT) for helping smokers quit, a significant win for e-cigarettes was found in every measured parameter. Led by Dr. Chris Bullen of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, the researchers recruited 657 smokers who said that they wanted to quit. They were randomized into 3 groups: 289 into an e-cigarette group, 295 in the NRT group, and 73 into what they called a “placebo” group: zero-nicotine e-cigarettes. The selected marketed e-cigarette delivered a fairly low-level nicotine dose, 16 mg., while the NRTs were 21 mg. per daily patch. The study period was for 13 weeks, and the primary outcome measured was abstinence from tobacco confirmed by carbon monoxide breath testing at 6 months follow-up.
The results showed a clear win for the e-cigarette group, with 7.3 percent of that group smokefree, while the NRT group had a success rate of 5.8 percent (the placebo group had a 4.1 percent abstinence rate at 6 months). Due to the unexpectedly low success rate among the entire group, these results, while demonstrating a clear positive trend for e-cigarettes, did not achieve statistical significance. There was no advantage to any of these treatments in terms of adverse effects.
Another important finding was the likelihood of staying on the treatment throughout the study period, even among those who did not quit completely, and the reduction of cigarette use in those non-quitters. Among those who had not managed to quit after six months, cigarette consumption was markedly reduced in the nicotine e-cigarettes group, compared to the patches and placebo groups: well over half (57%) of the participants in the e-cigarettes group had reduced their daily consumption of cigarettes by at least half after six months, compared to just over two fifths (41%) of the patches group.
In both the nicotine and placebo e-cigarettes groups, a third of participants were still using the devices after six months, compared to under one in ten (8%) of those in the patches group. When asked whether they would recommend their allocated product to a friend one month after finishing the course, around 9 out of 10 participants in both the e-cigarettes and the placebo groups said they would, compared to just over half (56%) in the patches group.