Tobacco smoking kills half of all those who
in smoking. An additional 600,000 non-smokers also die from
the effects of second-hand smoke. Smoking has therefore been categorized as the world's biggest preventable killer. The World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted a death toll of one billion due to
by the end of the century. As of 2014, cigarettes were smoked by over one billion people, which
account for nearly 20% of the world's population.
‘The status of e-cigarettes as an aid for quitting cigarette smoking is still unclear with researchers advising that they may have a positive role.’
are devices that allow users to inhale
an aerosol (vapor) containing nicotine or other substances just as they would
use a cigarette. Electronic cigarettes come in the form of e-pens, e-pipes
and e-cigars and are known collectively as ENDS - electronic nicotine delivery
systems. They contain a liquid consisting of nicotine, a base like propylene
glycol, and flavoring and coloring agents. Since they are battery operated,
they use a heating element to heat liquid from a refillable cartridge,
releasing a chemical-filled aerosol.
A team of researchers from the University College London and Cancer
collected data on smoking and quitting of smoking in England from the Smoking
Toolkit Study and the NHS Stop Smoking Service. The data was from the period
from 2005 to 2016
The researchers found that during this
based on the above data, the researchers suggest that e-cigarettes could have
played a role in helping people quit smoking. However, a definite association
between the two facts was not demonstrated, that is, based on this study, we
cannot say that e-cigarettes are a definitive aid in quitting smoking
- There was an
overall increase in the number of people who succeeded in quitting smoking
- There was a
substantial increase in the number of people who used e-cigarettes during
this period, from a negligible use in 2006 to 21.3% at the end of the
- The number of
people who used e-cigarettes to quit smoking increased from a negligible
number in 2006 to 35% in early 2015
- The use of nicotine replacement therapy reduced slowly
The team, led by Prof Robert West at
UCL, said "The increased prevalence of e-cigarettes in England does not
appear to have been associated with a detectable change in attempts to stop
smoking. However, the increase in e-cigarette use
has been associated with an increase in success of quit attempts."
Dr. John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the
University of Nottingham said "This significant year-on-year
fall indicates that something in UK tobacco control policy is working, and
successful quitting through substitution with e-cigarettes is one likely major
Prof Linda Bauld, of Cancer Research UK,
said "The British public have voted with their feet and are choosing to
use e-cigarettes. This is a positive choice, and we should promote it."
The safety of e-cigarettes has been questioned. Though they may not be as harmful as
conventional cigarettes, they still contain chemicals that can be harmful.
In addition, younger individuals and people who may otherwise avoid smoking may
get hooked on to them presuming that they are completely safe. Some people use
both conventional as well as e-cigarettes.
In a separate scientific analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, researchers looked at the side-effects of
e-cigarettes and found irritation of the throat and mouth are
the most common side effects. The study however evaluated the side effects only over a
period of two years of using the e-cigarettes
"We are encouraged to
find many studies are now under way, particularly as electronic cigarettes are
an evolving technology," said Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, one member of the
Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group.
of quitting, these can't provide the same information we get from randomized
controlled trials, but they contribute further information on the side-effects
of using electronic cigarettes to quit smoking. None detected any serious
side-effects, but longer term data are needed." he added.
are definitely a better
alternative for smokers than traditional tobacco. But the debate continues whether e-cigarettes are better than other aids like nicotine patch and gum, for quitting smoking.
In the US, sales
of e-cigarettes have hit an
estimated $3.5 billion. Depending on the number of
charges it provides, an e-cigarette can cost anywhere from $10 to $120.
Definite answers about the ability of e-cigarettes to
help in quitting smoking and their safety can only be obtained through
well-designed and long-term studies.
- Cigarette Consumption - (http://www.tobaccoatlas.org/topic/cigarette-use-globally/)
- E-cigarettes and Lung Health - (http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/e-cigarettes-and-lung-health.html)
- Beard E, West R, Michie S. Association between electronic cigarette use and changes in quit attempts, success of quit attempts, use of smoking cessation pharmacotherapy, and use of stop smoking services in England: time series analysis of population trends. BMJ 2016;354:i4645
- Hartmann-Boyce J, McRobbie H, Bullen C, Begh R, Stead LF, Hajek P. Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD010216. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010216.pub3