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Study Finds E-Cigarettes Raise Chances Of Quitting, ‘Can Save Lives’

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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E-cigarettes are being lavished with praise for their capacity to save lives after a new study showed they may have helped tens of thousands of Brits quit smoking.

The study, published in Addiction and led by Professor Robert West, said almost 900,000 people in England used e-cigarettes to wean themselves off tobacco in 2014.

Previous research has concluded that smokers using e-cigarettes to quit are far more likely to be successful than those who use nicotine replacement therapy or went cold turkey.

West’s team said the ability of e-cigarettes to succeed where all else has failed raises the long-term success rate of quitting from five percent to 7.5 percent.

“E-cigarettes appear to be helping a significant number of smokers to stop who would not have done otherwise – not as many as some e-cigarette enthusiasts claim, but a substantial number nonetheless,” said West. The study was greeted enthusiastically by both anti-tobacco campaigners and public health professionals.

“This shows that electronic cigarettes can save lives,” said chief executive of the anti-smoking campaign group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Deborah Arnott.

E-cigarettes are responsible for an additional 22,000 people quiting smoking, according to the study. These people are counted as additional quitters because the research assumes they would not have been able to quit without e-cigarettes.

“From these data, it is clear that electronic cigarettes are appealing to smokers trying to stop and have helped a significant number of people in England to move away from tobacco, a product that kills one in two of its regular users,” said Prof. Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at the University of Stirling. Bauld added that this “consumer revolution” may be saving lives.

“These are important findings that deserve wide publicity,” said Prof. Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London.”E-cigarettes have a potential to reduce smoking-related morbidity and many smokers are successful in making the switch from smoking to vaping.”

West also took the opportunity to criticize claims by some of the more extreme elements in the public health lobby that e-cigarettes were somehow a route back to smoking and posed a risk to tobacco control.

“There have been claims by some public health researchers that e-cigarettes undermine quitting if smokers use them just to cut down, and that they act as a gateway into smoking. These claims stem from a misunderstanding of what the evidence can tell us at this stage, but this is clearly something we need to watch carefully.”

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