People who take up e-cigarettes in an effort to stop smoking should consider upping the nicotine dose they get by using them daily, scientists have said.
Two new research papers suggest e-cigarettes may help smokers trying to kick the habit, but only if they are used every day, instead of infrequently. It may also be more beneficial to use the versions with refillable “tanks”, which could deliver a higher dose of nicotine.
There is much controversy around the potential for e-cigarettes to help people quit smoking, even though it is estimated that the devices are up to 95% less harmful than cigarette smoking. Some critics believe e-cigarettes are a stalking horse for the tobacco industry, which is now involved in manufacturing “cigalikes” – the type of e-cigarette that often resembles a standard cigarette.
Prof Ann McNeill of King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, where both studies were based, said: “Most smokers want to stop but are struggling, and disadvantaged and deprived groups are struggling most. If you are using an e-cigarette, use it more frequently and stop smoking cigarettes as fast as you can. If cigalikes don’t work, try something else.”
Neither of the papers proves e-cigarettes enable people to stop smoking, but they provide much-needed evidence that using e-cigarettes may help those who are trying to quit. E-cigarettes have taken off so fast – two million people now use them in the UK – that research into their impact has not been able to keep up.
The studies were based on a survey of more than 1,500 smokers in December 2012, which was then followed up on a year later. The first study, published in the journal Addiction, found that 65% of those who were using an e-cigarette on a daily basis went on to make an attempt to give up smoking within the year, compared with 44% of smokers who were not using e-cigarettes. There was no evidence that daily e-cigarette users were more likely to have managed to get rid of a tobacco habit by the end of a year, but 14% had reduced their tobacco consumption by at least half.