Study claims smokers have more success quitting with e-cigarettes

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"Can they do harm?
Are they better than smoking real cigarettes?
The divisions amongst people who are for and against electronic cigarettes is becoming more entrenched, not least in the US where a number of cities including New York and Chicago have banned their use in public places.
As tobacco smoking bans have become effective across countries around the world, smokers have been turning increasingly to the use of e-cigarettes which emit nicotine through a vapour.
The European Union has discussed whether to only allow licensed devices to be sold, but has stepped back from the action in case people who use e-cigarettes to give up tobacco are deterred from using higher cost licensed products.
In America the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to regulate it's use saying: ""E-cigarettes have not been fully studied, so consumers currently don't know
the potential risks of e-cigarettes when used as intended, how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use, or whether there are any benefits associated with using these products.""
It also claims: ""It is not known whether e-cigarettes may lead young people to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death.""
Other clinicians argue that e-cigarettes don't contain the harmful chemicals used in tobacco and they are not combustible creating toxic smoke so they pose a fraction if any harm to people and are certainly better than smoking traditional cigarettes.
That's the view of Professor Robert West one of the researchers behind the latest report from University College London (UCL).
West is Professor of health psychology and director of tobacco studies at UCL's Institute of Epidemiology & Health and he's been evaluating the effects of nicotine withdrawal.
He and his has surveyed the outcome of over 5000 smokers who wanted to kick their habit.
He split the group into three.
A third gave up smoking without anything, another third gave up using licensed nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) and the final third used e-cigarettes.
None of the groups were given access to specialist counselling services which most clinicians regard as the most effective way of helping people give up smoking.
The problem is that access to these services tends to be limited in most countries to the people who can afford to pay for private addiction counselling from qualified therapists.
West says: ""We identified three groups that we were interested in. One was people who'd used an e-cigarette and nothing else, another group was people who'd used one of the licensed nicotine products, patch, gum whatever and nothing else and another group who used nothing at all and we looked to see whether they were still not smoking and we were also able to adjust statistically for any other sort of differences that might have been between them. For example, we know that people who use a nicotine product are actually more dependent than others so you've got to adjust for that and when we compared the success rates of those groups, what we found was, those who were using the electronic cigarette were about 60% more likely still not to be smoking than either of the other two groups.""
Not all public health experts are convinced by the study.
Martin McKee is Professor of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).
McKee argues cigarette companies are investing in e-cigarettes because they see it as a back door route to re-establishing cigarette smoking in societies who've banned it.
McKee says of course vaping, as e-cigarette smoking is described, is much safer than smoking real cigarettes but we should not delude ourselves that it is harmless.



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