Are e-cig­gies a boon or a bur­den?

THE NUM­BERS

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By DANIELLE STREET

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.

Photo: GETTY IM­AGES

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.

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