Research highlights the potential of e-cigarettes

A study conducted at The University of Auckland’s Clinical Trials Research Unit has provided the first evidence that nicotine delivered via ‘e-cigarette’ can help reduce the desire to smoke.

“The e-cigarettes that we tested appeared to be as effective as a standard nicotine replacement therapy inhalator in reducing the desire to smoke and relieving cigarette withdrawal symptoms,” says lead researcher Associate Professor Chris Bullen of the Clinical Trials Research Unit.

“Our results indicate that e-cigarettes have potential as a method to help people stop smoking, in the same ways as a nicotine inhalator. However, our findings should be seen as preliminary and need to be confirmed for this and other e-cigarette brands.”

E-cigarettes are electronic nicotine delivery devices that resemble cigarettes but do not use tobacco. They release a small dose of nicotine with each ‘puff’.

E-cigarettes are already available in many countries and on the internet but there have been few clinical studies to date. E-cigarettes that use nicotine are not being sold in New Zealand but nicotine-free varieties are available in stores.

“E-cigarettes are popular in the United States and Asia where people report buying them to reduce the cost of smoking, cut down on cigarette consumption, use in smokefree places, relieve tobacco withdrawal symptoms, or help quit smoking. But this is the first reputable clinical study to actually examine their effect on smokers.” says Dr Bullen.

The study compared 40 adult smokers who on different days used a Ruyan V8 e-cigarette delivering either nicotine or placebo; a Nicorette nicotine inhalator; or their usual cigarette.

It was designed primarily to measure the effect of e-cigarette use on the desire to smoke, but also examined the impact on smoking withdrawal symptoms and the acceptability of the device to users.

“We found that the device delivered nicotine to the bloodstream in a similar way as an inhalator, reduced the desire to smoke, and was acceptable to most users,” says Dr Bullen.

“Overall the e-cigarette appeared to be as good as the inhalator in terms of reducing the desire to smoke and relieving withdrawal symptoms. E-cigarettes that delivered nicotine also had a stronger effect than those with placebo.”

“However further studies are required to examine the potential and safety of long-term e-cigarette use, and a large clinical trial would be needed to determine their effectiveness in helping people stop smoking.”

The research has been published in the journal Tobacco Control.

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