Which is better: the patch or e-cigarettes?
Trying to quit smoking?
When comparing the electronic cigarette vs. the patch, the best thing to do is look at the studies.
Studies on the patch have found that the patch is only about 2 percent more effective in the long term than if you quit smoking cold turkey.
Considering the risks of the patch and the fact that many people continue smoking while on the patch, you may want to try the new alternative: the e-cigarette.
Are e-cigarettes safe?
E-cigarettes are “magnitudes” safer than tobacco cigarettes, according to doctors and researchers who have thoroughly studied the devices.
Research shows that switching from cigarettes to a smoke-free product, such as e-cigarettes, reduces your health risk to less than 1 percent of that incurred by traditional smokers.
Claims that e-cigarettes aren’t safe miss the point. They’re 99 percent safer than smoking traditional cigarettes. What more do you want?
But isn’t there anti-freeze in e-cigarettes?
No. This myth was created when a press release issued in 2009 by the Food and Drug Agency (FDA) stated that a single cartridge had tested positive for a non-toxic amount (1%) of diethylene glycol (DG). While DG can be found in anti-freeze, it is certainly not a standard e-cigarette ingredient. It has not been found in any other e-cigarettes tested since then.
So what IS in e-cigarettes?
The main ingredient in e-cigarette cartomizers is propylene glycol (PG), also found in asthma inhalers and nebulizers.
PG is approved and considered safe for inhaling by the FDA and Environmental Protection Agency. Ironically, it can also be found in anti-freeze, but it’s added solely to make it less toxic. PG can also be found in many foods and medications.
A new study of e-cigarettes by Drexel University examined the vapor and liquid of more than 9,000 e-cigarettes and found no significant levels of contaminants or anything that would pose any health risk.
The study also affirmed that e-cigarettes posed no health risk to users or bystanders.
Are e-cigarettes approved or regulated by the FDA?
The FDA currently regulates e-cigarettes as tobacco products, although they’re not subjected to the same restrictions as tobacco cigarettes. For example, they're not subjected to the clean air act because there's no harmful secondhand smoke.
Any bans against e-cigarette use in public locations is generally based on misinformation about secondhand vapor.
"E-cigarettes do help people quit. The increasing evidence from anecdotal reports and clinical studies shows that addicted smokers are significantly more likely to quit cigarettes when they are aided by e-cigarettes as opposed to those cessation products approved by the FDA.
"Furthermore, the FDA’s warning that the chemicals in e-cigarette vapor may be “unsafe” or “toxic” is not backed by evidence that trace amounts actually cause any harm; in fact, similar traces of these same “carcinogens” have been detected in other FDA-approved cessation products such as nicotine patches.
The difference seems to be that e-cigarettes actually succeed in getting people to quit smoking."
Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, ASCH, in a letter to the FDA
"The benefits of electronic cigarettes are clear: they help many smokers to quit smoking. They are especially advantageous to smokers who have failed to quit using traditional methods."
Dr. Michael Siegel, Professor at Boston University School of Public Health
According to new research, the e-cigarette is proving to be much better than the patch in helping people reduce their cigarette use or quit.
Read the two latest studies, conducted in Fall 2013:
JAMA, October 2013
Conclusion: Electronic cigarettes were better than the patches at reducing cigarette consumption in smokers. They were also slightly more effective than nicotine patches in helping people quit smoking for at least six months.
Study Authors: The University of Auckland in New Zealand and funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand
Study Subjects: 657 smokers who were randomized to three groups
Methodology: The 657 smokers were given a 13-week supply of either e-cigarettes (with 16-mg nicotine), nicotine patches (21 mg), or placebo e-cigarettes
After six months, 7.3% in the e-cigarette group had quit smoking, compared with 5.8% with nicotine patches and 4.1% of those in the placebo group.
The study also found that the e-cigarette users either reduced or quit using cigarettes in large numbers and were less prone to resume smoking, at least in the short term.
Addictive Behaviors, November 2013
Conclusion: The first long-term study of how people use e-cigarettes concludes that e-cigarettes help former smokers avoid relate and help current smokers quit smoking.
Study Authors: Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Study Subjects: 477 users of electronic cigarettes during one month and 367 users who answered three questionnaires in one year
Methodology: The researchers created a questionnaire and posted it on a French stop-smoking website. Several websites that sold e-cigarettes also linked to the questionnaire.
The e-cigarette users were asked to answer a baseline questionnaire, then another one a month later, and a final one a year later. The questions probed their e-cigarette use, tobacco use and quit date, if they quit tobacco.
Of those who had quit smoking and switched to e-cigarettes, only 6% had relapsed to tobacco after one month. That number was stable after one year.
Of those who were smoking and switched to e-cigarettes at the beginning of the study, 22% quit smoking tobacco after a month, and 46% quit after a year.
Among people who were using both tobacco and e-cigarettes, their cigarette consumption decreased by 5.3 cigarettes a day after one month (from 11.3 to 6 cigarettes a day); this remained unchanged at the one-year follow-up.
"This suggests that e-cigs may help them quit… In the short-term, e-cigs appear not to carry any health risks of their own," said Jean-Francois Etter, who led the study.
E-cigarettes don't need to be 100% safe, he said. They only need to be significantly safer than tobacco cigarettes, as they are primarily used by cigarette smokers.
Etter believes smokers should use e-cigarettes to quit smoking, and that doctors should recommend them.