E-cigarettes are estimated to have helped 16,000-22,000 smokers in England to quit in 2014

Researchers from University College London estimate that use of e-cigarettes produced 16K-22K additional long-term quitters in England in 2014.1 A long-term quitter is someone who has not smoked for at least one year.

The UCL team has been tracking the rapid rise in use of e-cigarettes using monthly national surveys and estimates that in 2014 almost 900,000 smokers used one of these products to try to quit (see “Electronic cigarettes in England - latest trends” (ref STS140122) at http://www.smokinginengland.info/latest-statistics/).

Previous research has found that when used in this way, e-cigarettes increase the chances of success by around 50% compared with using no support or one of the traditional nicotine products such as gum or skin patch bought from a shop.2,3 This raises the long-term success rates from around 5% to around 7½%. The increased success rate amounts to an additional 22K people stopping who would otherwise have continued smoking. Some of these people may have used an e-cigarette instead of one of the more established aids to cessation such as the Stop-Smoking Services. Adjusting for this, the number helped by e-cigarettes may be somewhat lower, at 16K.

Professor Robert West, who led the research team, said “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.”

Professor West added, “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.”

1West R, Shahab L, and Brown J (2016). Estimating the population impact of e-cigarettes on smoking cessation in England.  Addiction 111: DOI: 10.1111/add.13343.

2McRobbie H, Bullen C, Hartmann-Boyce J, and Hajek P (2014). Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation and reduction. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD010216. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010216.pub2.

3Brown J, Beard E, Kotz D, Michie S, and West R (2014). Real‐world effectiveness of e‐cigarettes when used to aid smoking cessation: A cross‐sectional population study. Addiction 109(9), 1531-40. DOI: 10.1111/add.12623.

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For editors:

West R, Shahab L, and Brown J (2016). Estimating the population impact of e-cigarettes on smoking cessation in England.  Addiction 111: DOI: 10.1111/add.13343

Interviews with lead author Prof Robert West can contact him at University College London by email (robertwest100@gmail.com) or telephone (+44 020 3108 3075).

Addiction is a monthly international scientific journal publishing peer-reviewed research reports on alcohol, illicit drugs, tobacco, and gambling as well as editorials and other debate pieces. Owned by the Society for the Study of Addiction, it has been in continuous publication since 1884. Addiction is the number one journal in the 2015 ISI Journal Citation Reports Ranking in the Substance Abuse Category (Social Science Edition).