As a health reporter, I hate covering flip-flopping studies like a March finding that electronic cigarettes don’t help smokers quit and a new British study finding that they do. Here’s the simple explanation for the conflicting findings: The first study that found e-cigarettes were useless for quitting did not look specifically at those who were actually trying to stop smoking, while the more recent study did.
The latest study surveyed 5,863 smokers between 2009 and 2014 who had made a serious attempt to quit over the past year using either e-cigarettes — which have battery-operated cartridges to heat liquid nicotine that is inhaled as a vapor — or over-the-counter cessation aids such as nicotine patches, gum or lozenges, or nothing at all to help them quit. The study found that e-cigarette users were 60 percent more likely to have been successful in their quitting efforts compared to those in the other two groups. The researchers took into account income level, nicotine dependence, and other differences between those who used e-cigarettes and those who didn’t.
“This was a real-world observational study to see how well e-cigarettes work when used specifically to help people stop smoking,” said study author Dr. Jamie Brown, a senior research associate at University College in London. “The trade-off is we cannot definitively rule out that an unmeasured factor may have influenced the result.” D.K.
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