So there is a bit of a debate on the value of e-cigarettes. This morning Christian Kerr had a piece in the Australian:
The smokeless devices administer nicotine to users in a similar way to patches or gum, but face legal bars in some states due to a Therapeutic Goods Administration ban on their liquid nicotine.
A major study last month by University College London found smokers who use e-cigarettes to quit tobacco were 60 per cent more likely to succeed than others.
Now the immediate past director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, Richard Mattick, University of Queensland senior research fellow Coral Gartner and two other Australian experts have joined more than 50 international nicotine science and public health policy specialists in signing an open letter to the World Health Organisation warning against taking an “activist” approach to the devices.
“We have know for years that people ‘smoke for the nicotine, but die from the smoke’,” the letter reads. “The vast majority of the death and disease attributable to tobacco arises from inhalation of tar particles and toxic gases drawn into the lungs.
“There are now rapid developments in nicotine-based products that can effectively substitute for cigarettes but with very low risks.”
This afternoon Simon Chapman had this in The Conversation:
This “real world” English study examined 5,863 smokers who’d made a quit attempt in the past year. It found 93 out of the 464 people who used e-cigarettes were successful (20%), while 194 out of the 1,922 people using nicotine replacement therapy made it (10.1%), and 535 out of 3,477 of the people trying to quit unassisted did so (15.4%).
Let’s look at these numbers another way. In this large study, 80% of smokers trying to quit by vaping were still smoking compared with 84.6% of those tried to quit on their own. That hardly looks like a champagne-popping difference deserving the accolades abounding in narratives about vaping.
Chapman is telling us that the 4.6% difference is trivial or unimportant. Well perhaps – without a formal test who can tell? But is that the correct comparator? Actually no.
Rather than compare everyone who tried to quit smoking with an e-cig to any other method of quitting he should have compared the e-cigs to the alternate nicotine replacement therapies. 20% v 10.1% is starting to look a lot more respectable.
The others more or less quit cold-turkey. Those who do are serious quitters – the nicotine replacement quitters are less serious. Within the group who choose to attempt to quit smoking via nicotine replacement it appears that e-cigarettes are a lot more successful. In any event, that 4.6% might be significant and e-cigs might be better than cold-turkey too.