E-Cigs May Not Help in Long Term

Electronic cigarettes appeared unsuccessful in helping patients quit conventional cigarettes in long term

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) It's a blooming, billion-dollar industry offering to help you kick the habit — but some health experts have warned against electronic cigarettes due to a lack of evidence. Now they may have backup for their claims.

New research found that e-cigs did not help users quit smoking traditional cigarettes in the long term.

“Although e-cigarettes are widely promoted and used as a smoking cessation tool, we found no data supporting their long-term [effectiveness] and safety,” said lead study author Riyad al-Lehebi, MBBS, of the University of Toronto in Canada, in a press release.

al-Lehebi and team looked at 22 past studies on e-cigs as quitting tools. E-cigs are battery-powered devices that heat a nicotine solution to produce a vapor the user inhales. Nicotine is the main addictive compound in tobacco.

After one month, e-cigs were more effective than a placebo (fake treatment) in helping patients avoid traditional cigarettes. However, once the three-month mark hit, these benefits disappeared.

After both the three- and six-month marks, al-Lehebi and team found no significant difference between patients who used e-cigs and those who did not.

One study found that after six months, only 7.3 percent of e-cig users had completely quit traditional cigarettes — compared to 5.8 percent of those using nicotine patches.

Some e-cig users also said they had issues like dry cough, throat irritation and shortness of breath.

al-Lehebi and team stressed the need for more long-term research on e-cigs.

"Given the potential health risks of using these unproven and unregulated devices, individuals seeking help with smoking cessation should consider other more well-established options until more research is performed,” al-Lehebi said.

This study was presented May 17 at the American Thoracic Society International Conference in Denver, CO. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

Funding and conflict of interest disclosures were not available at the time of publication.

Review Date: 
May 11, 2015
Last Updated:
May 19, 2015