E-cigarettes is a more popular Google search term than nicotine replacement therapy, Chantix (an anti-smoking drug), or snus (a new form of smokeless tobacco), according to a study published online this week by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. A survey released at the same time by the journal hinted that the battery-powered cylindrical devices, which provide nicotine but no tar or smoke, might help people kick the habit.
A new research study from Boston University suggests that electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) may be more effective at helping smokers quit than nicotine patches or gum, TIME magazine reported Feb. 10.
The researchers, led by Michael Siegel, M.D., sent surveys to 5,000 first-time buyers of e-cigarettes over two weeks in 2011. Nearly 67 percent of the respondents reported that they had cut down on cigarettes six months after beginning use of e-cigarettes, and 34.3 percent said they were not using e-cigarettes or other cessation aids that contained nicotine. Other research has shown that around 12 to 18 percent of people who used nicotine patches and nicotine gum report abstinence at six months – nearly half the rate of those who used e-cigarettes in this survey.
“This study suggests that electronic cigarettes are helping thousands of ex-smokers remain off cigarettes,” Siegel said. The authors of the study acknowledged that the study’s conclusions were limited by the low response rate, pointing out that smokers who had quit or cut down on smoking might be more likely to respond. However, they said it was the best evidence to date on the effectiveness of e-cigarettes, and that the devices “hold promise as a smoking-cessation method and that they are worthy of further study using more rigorous research designs.”
“Banning this product would invariably result in many ex-smokers returning to cigarette smoking,” Siegel said. “Removing electronic cigarettes from the market would substantially harm the public’s health.”
Meanwhile, a second study of e-cigarettes from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reviewed internet searches for smoking alternatives between January 2008 and September 2010 and found that e-cigarettes had become far more popular than other options, at least in the United States and the U.K.