Are e-ciggies a boon or a burden?
Electronic cigarettes are a promising tool to help smokers quit, according to results from a world-first study.
Researchers at the University of Auckland have released the results of their study that compared the increasingly popular devices with the traditional method of nicotine patches.
E-cigarettes look similar to regular cigarettes and work by vaporising liquid nicotine, delivering a mist to the airways when users draw on the mouthpiece.
They deliver the nicotine without the other toxins found in tobacco products.
The study recruited 657 smokers to take part – 292 were given e-cigarettes with nicotine, 292 were given patches, and the rest received placebo e-cigarettes that released only water vapour.
Participants were given a three month supply and then regularly tested over six months to establish whether they maintained abstinence from smoking.
Associate professor Chris Bullen, who led the study, says the results don’t show any clear differences between e-cigarettes and patches in terms of quit success.
However the e-cigarettes were more effective in helping smokers cut down their intake.
‘‘People who took part in our study seemed to be much more enthusiastic about e-cigarettes than patches,’’ Dr Bullen says.
More participants said they would recommend e-cigarettes to family or friends, compared to patches, he says.
In July, Auckland City Harbour News spoke to hardcore smoker Eric Birch, who had stubbed out a 40 year habit after a month of using e-cigarettes.
‘‘It felt a bit strange at first,’’ he says.
‘‘But then I thought bug- ger it, I’m doing this for me, I don’t care what anyone else thinks.’’
Mr Birch is still smokefree and recommends e-cigarettes to other people attempting to quit.
‘‘I try to encourage other people but I don’t push them too hard,’’ he says.
The long-term effects of e-cigarettes are still uncertain, but the devices are gaining popularity around the globe.
In New Zealand they can be used in public areas where smoking is not allowed.
Michael Colhoun from anti-smoking action group ASH says it would like to see more evaluation of e-cigarettes and their regulation.
‘‘Because they are not a tobacco product they are not governed by tobacco law. You could smoke them on a plane, on a bus, in a club,’’ he says.
Dr Bullen says due to their popularity and regulatory uncertainty, larger longterm trials are urgently needed to establish whether the device can fulfil their potential as effective smoking cessation aids.
Safe smoke? A study at University of Auckland shows e-cigarettes can be a helpful quitting tool, but little is still known about their long-term effects.
Success story: Eric Birch stubbed out a 40-year habit after a month of using e-cigarettes.