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E-cigarettes WON’T help you quit: Smokers using vapers are ‘28% less likely to ditch traditional cigarettes’

  • E-cigarettes do not help smokers quit their habit, a major study concludes
  • People using ‘vaping’ gadgets are in fact 28% less likely to stop smoking
  • Experts say devices ‘should not be recommended to help smokers quit’
  • Comes two weeks after regulators approved first e-cigarette for medical use, meaning doctors in the UK can prescribe them to patients

E-cigarettes do not help smokers to quit tobacco, a major study has concluded.

Researchers found that people who use ‘vaping’ gadgets are in fact 28 per cent less likely to give up smoking traditional cigarettes.

The findings are a major blow to leading health officials in England, who have repeatedly insisted that e-cigarettes are a key tool to reduce smoking rates.

The study – a systematic review of all available data on the issue – is the largest to assess whether e-cigarettes assist smokers in quitting cigarettes.

Published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal, it concluded that e-cigarettes do not help smokers quit – and should not be recommended for the purpose until there is solid proof that they do.

Public Health England, in a landmark report published last summer, claimed that e-cigarettes are ‘95 per cent’ safe – and called for the devices to be rolled out on the NHS.

That report was widely criticised when it emerged that its headline claim originated in research partly conducted by scientists funded by the e-cigarette industry.

Yet plans to prescribe e-cigarettes as a quit-smoking aid have carried on at full tilt, and two weeks ago the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency approved the first vaping device for medical use.

The e-Voke, an e-cigarette produced by British American Tobacco, is now allowed to be marketed for smoking cessation, which means patients can request the device from their GP.

E-cigarettes contain a liquid form of nicotine that is heated into vapour to be inhaled, avoiding the harm caused by tobacco smoke.

While most experts are agreed that vaping is far safer than smoking tobacco, many are concerned about unresolved safety concerns.

The World Health Organisation has warned that they may be toxic to bystanders, many rail companies have banned people from vaping on trains or in stations, and the Welsh Government is planning to prohibit the practice in restaurants, pubs and offices from 2017.

Europe’s highest legal expert, Dr Juliane Kokott, the advocate general to the European Court of Justice, last month warned that e-cigarettes ‘possibly cause risks to human health’ and that they may even provide a ‘gateway’ for teenagers to go on to smoke tobacco.

She said that regulation is needed, including banning one in four of the strongest devices, and putting health warnings on packaging telling people e-cigarettes contain a ‘highly addictive substance’.

The new study, led by the University of California San Francisco, reviewed 38 studies assessing the link between e-cigarette use and cigarette cessation among adult smokers.

Research author Dr Sara Kalkhoran said: ‘As currently being used, e-cigarettes are associated with significantly less quitting among smokers.

‘E-cigarettes should not be recommended as effective smoking cessation aids until there is evidence that, as promoted and used, they assist smoking cessation.’

Co-author Professor Stanton Glantz added: ‘The irony is that quitting smoking is one of the main reasons both adults and kids use e-cigarettes, but the overall effect is less, not more, quitting.

‘While there is no question that a puff on an e-cigarette is less dangerous than a puff on a conventional cigarette, the most dangerous thing about e-cigarettes is that they keep people smoking conventional cigarettes.

‘The fact that they are freely available consumer products could be important.’

The two main authors of Public Health England’s report last night issued a fierce criticism of the new findings.

Professor Peter Hajek, of Queen Mary University of London, called it ‘grossly misleading’.

The work, he said, looked only at current smokers who had at some point used an e-cigarette – thus excluding any former smokers who may have used exactly such a device to quit.

And Professor Ann McNeill, of King’s College London, said the review was ‘not scientific’.

‘I believe the findings should therefore be dismissed,’ she added.

But Steven Bernstein of Yale School of Medicine, writing in a separate editorial published by The Lancet, said that despite concerns over the data, the study did raise questions about the usefulness of e-cigarettes as quitting aides.

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