The research team believe that minimisation of post-cessation weight gain in cigarette-smoking quitters is very important, but that the existing approaches that use medication have only had a limited success rate.
Over an eight-year period, according to previous research, smokers gain an average of 2.24kg, whereas those who have given up smoking gain an average of 8.79kg. One of the biggest problems is that nicotine is an appetite suppressant, and quitting smoking leads to a resurgence in wanting to eat. This combines with a lower rate of exercise to produce weight gain.
The team referred to the Cochrane review, looking therapies in preventing post cessation weight gain: “showed only modest results, with NRT, bupropion, and varenicline reducing weight gain only by 0.5 kg, 1.1 kg, and 0.4 kg, respectively. Additionally, this modest advantage was lost rapidly after treatment discontinuation.”
The team writes: “Very little is known about post cessation weight gain after switching to [electronic cigarette] use. Specifically, it is unknown if regular vaping could prevent post cessation weight gain. To address this, we have measured absolute weight changes for up to one year in smokers who quit or reduced substantially their tobacco consumption by switching to [electronic cigarette] and compared these changes to sex- and age-matched smokers who abstained from cigarette smoking after having successfully completed a cessation program.”
A total of 86 EC users, 93 regular smokers, and 44 quitters were studied – and the results were very pleasing. “[Our] findings are of great significance bearing in mind the negative health impact that any increase in body weight gain has on cardiovascular diseases, metabolic conditions, and some cancers,” continues the paper. “Moreover, lack of weight gain by switching to regular ECs use may be an important incentive to quit for those smokers who are concerned about cessation-related weight gain.”
Regular vaping, even when dual using, was linked to better weight control, leading the team to conclude: “The potential role of the e-vapour category for harm minimization in relation to tobacco and/or food abuse requires confirmation from larger prospective studies. Moreover, the observed lack of post-cessation weight gain in those who reduced substantially cigarette consumption by switching to ECs (i.e., dual users) is an interesting finding and calls for further research investigating the role of nicotine in weight control. Meanwhile, these preliminary findings should be communicated to smokers and particularly to weight-conscious smokers intending to quit.”
Colin Mendelsohn said: “The study by Riccardo Polosa finds further evidence of reduced weight gain in smokers who switch to vaping and dual users. It’s another health benefit for vaping, which could motivate weight-conscious smokers to switch.”