E-cigarettes have become popular tobacco consumption devices, with some suggesting they could help people quit smoking. And a new study from the UK found evidence that supports this idea - with a catch.
The study, which was published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, set out to determine which method is most effective for long-term smoking cessation: e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement methods like a patch, lozenge, or nasal spray. The 886 participants were divided into groups and given either e-cigarettes or nicotine replacements products as a tool to quit. Additionally, every participant received "behavioral support" in the form of weekly one-on-one therapy sessions.
This was unique to the study as "previous trials provided limited or no face-to-face support," the study's authors wrote.
The researchers followed the participants for one year and during that time they recorded participants' smoking habits, ratings of e-cigarette or nicotine replacement products, withdrawal symptoms, and any adverse reactions to the cessation methods. In the end, they found that the e-cigarette users had more success in smoking cessation compared to those who used other nicotine replacement methods.
More specifically, the researchers found that 18% of e-cigarette users were able to abstain from smoking for one full year compared to only 9.9% in the nicotine replacement group.
When polled, participants said they found that both methods "were perceived to be less satisfying than cigarettes." E-cigarettes, however, "provided greater satisfaction and were rated as more helpful to refrain from smoking than nicotine-replacement products," the study's authors wrote.
The e-cigarette users also reported "less severe urges to smoke" at one week and four weeks after they initially quit smoking, as well as less "irritability, restlessness, and inability to concentrate" than those using other nicotine replacement methods.
In terms of health side effects, more nicotine replacement users reported feeling nauseous (37.9%) than e-cigarette users (31.3%). More e-cigarette users, however, reported increased throat and mouth irritation (65.3%,) than nicotine replacement users (51.2%).
E-cigarettes could potentially be useful tools for adult smokers seeking to quit, but they are not without various health risks.
A 2015 study in Environmental Health Perspectives found a potential link between certain e-cigarette vape flavors and a condition called popcorn lung, which causes inflammation and permanent scarring in the lung's airways, INSIDER previously reported. Additionally, some e-cigarettes have been found to contain dangerous metals like lead that could increase a person's risk of heart attack.
E-cigarettes also typically contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance that can cause a dependence on e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So while e-cigarettes could potentially help existing smokers quit when paired with therapy, they can also pose an addiction risk.
Visit INSIDER's homepage for more.