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Large UK Study Reports E-Cigarettes can Help with Quitting

Update Date: May 20, 2014 11:40 AM EDT

The safety and effectiveness of using e-cigarettes to help quit smoking have been questioned repeatedly. Due to the lack of convincing evidence, the United States and other nations have started to regulate the product. Now, according to a new and large study out of the United Kingdom, researchers from the University College London reported that these devices have the potential to help smokers quit.

For this study, the researchers polled 5,863 adult smokers between 2009 and 2014. Within the five years, the smokers had tried to stop smoking with the help of prescription medications or professional assistance.

They found that 20 percent of them reported quitting cigarettes with the help of e-cigarettes. Only 10.1 percent were able to quit using over-the-counter products, such as nicotine replacement patches or gum. 15.4 percent were able to quit out of will power. The team calculated that the smokers who used e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid were 60 percent more likely to have success when compared to smokers who tried quitting using the other methods. The research team stated that they were "cautiously positive" about the effectiveness of using e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid.

"E-cigarettes could substantially improve public health because of their widespread appeal and the huge health gains associated with stopping smoking," Lead researcher Professor Robert West, one of the UK's leading experts in this field, said according to BBC News. "Some public health experts have expressed concern that widespread use of e-cigarettes could 're-normalize' smoking. However, we are tracking this very closely and see no evidence of it. Smoking rates in England are declining, quitting rates are increasing and regular e-cigarette use among never smokers is negligible."

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), smoking is responsible for killing six million people per year. Tobacco has been linked to increasing the risk of several health problems, such as lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The team reported that even though the long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes are unknown, they believe that the content in e-cigarettes, which are mainly composed of nicotine, is still better than cigarette smoke.

The study was published in the journal, Addiction.

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