By Claudio Buttice
The use of e-cigarettes raised several controversies over the last few years. A recent study from the from University College of London (UCL) found these devices helped about 16,000-22,000 English smokers quit in 2014.
The use of e-cigarettes saw a boom in sales in both Europe and the United States since their debut in 2007. E-cigs never received proper approval by either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the European Medicines Agency (EMA) as a medical device that could be used to help people quit smoking. A systematic analysis published in the Cochrane Library in 2014 did, in fact, estimate that e-cigs did not perform better than nicotine patches in helping smokers quit. Other public health researchers even suggested that these devices could be detrimental to smokers trying to quit, or act as a gateway to smoking in younger people and non-smoker populations. Studies published last year even suggested that e-cigarettes could be detrimental to health due to high levels of formaldehyde that could cause cancer. However, it’s still unclear whether all e-cigs may be harmful or just a few low-quality ones that were produced with inferior quality standards.
However, the results provided by the UCL team seems to be finally in favour of this controversial device. The research team used monthly national surveys to investigate the behavioral pattern of smokers in 2014, and found that about 900,000 of them used an e-cigarette trying to quit. The one-year success rate of quitting has been estimated as about 5 percent if no nicotine products (such as nicotine gums or skin patches) or assistance was used. However, using an electronic cigarette raises this percentage by roughly half to 7.5 percent, similar to what happens when a subject uses a medical nicotine product together with non-specialistic behavioural support. The team led by Dr. Robert West quantified the number of people who successfully quit smoking thanks to the e-cig to 22,000. However, some of them may have used this device instead of another established aid, and for this reason the number of people who quit smoking may be adjusted to a lower total of 16,000.