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E-cigarettes more effective than NRT reports landmark study


E-cigarettes are almost twice as effective as nicotine replacement treatments (NRT) at helping smokers to quit finds a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine

The multi centre randomised controlled trial, the first to test the efficacy of e-cigarettes in helping smokers to quit, involved almost 900 smokers who also received additional behavioural support for up to four weeks.

It found that 18% of e-cigarette users were smoke-free after a year, compared to 9.9% of participants who were using other NRT therapies, including patches, gum, lozenges, sprays, inhalators, or a combination of products.

These findings validate PCRS policy which supports e-cigarettes as a positive option available to support people to quit tobacco smoking.

Lead researcher Professor Peter Hajek from Queen Mary University of London said: "Although a large number of smokers report that they have quit smoking successfully with the help of e-cigarettes, health professionals have been reluctant to recommend their use because of the lack of clear evidence from randomised controlled trials. This is now likely to change."

The study, led by Queen Mary University of London, was funded by the National Institute for Health Research and supported by Cancer Research UK.

PCRS Executive chair Dr Noel Baxter says: “We have known for some time that e- cigarettes are safer than continuing to smoke tobacco. We now know from this study that e-cigarettes plus behavioural change therapy is an effective intervention to get people off smoked tobacco. This study allows us to add e-cigarettes as a pharmacotherapy option to the already well established and effective short plus long acting NRT and varenicline options."

Darush Attar, PCRS member and Respiratory Lead Pharmacist Barnet CCG, says: “Many pharmacists and pharmacy staff are providing advice on stop smoking treatments. E-cigarettes are the most popular stop smoking aid in the UK and it is important that we recommend them as an option for tobacco dependent patients alongside quality behavioural support.”

The new PCRS Pragmatic Guide to the Diagnosis and Management of Tobacco Dependency provides an evidence-based framework to enable healthcare professionals to routinely identify smokers then encourage and support a quit attempt.