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New Cochrane Report

A new Cochrane report has been released that looks at using electronic cigarettes to help people achieve long‐term smoking abstinence

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A new Cochrane report has been released that looks at using electronic cigarettes to help people achieve long‐term smoking abstinence. They find that vaping works to help get people off smoking – and works better than traditional nicotine replacement products like patches or gum.

Cochrane says: “Since coming on the market over a decade ago, electronic cigarettes have caused a considerable stir in the public health community. It is of prime importance that the debate around this issue is based on high quality, relevant and up to date scientific data.

“We want to be able to include all the evidence as it becomes available to ensure that the findings are as comprehensive as possible. With support from Cancer Research UK, we are searching monthly for new evidence for our Cochrane review of electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation (a “living systematic review” approach).

“Cochrane systematic reviews are recognised as the highest standard in evidence-based healthcare, bringing together primary research data to facilitate evidence-based choices about health interventions. In April 2021 the first update to the review since it became a living review has been published.

“Since its first publication in 2014, this review has contributed to national and international guidelines. There is a huge amount of misinformation circulating about electronic cigarettes, and we are actively involved in sharing the evidence with diverse audiences.”

The new report (1) looks at the evidence for and against e‐cigarettes helping people to stop smoking, and if people using them for this purpose experience any unwanted effects.

They only looked at randomised controlled trials, in which the treatments people received were decided at random. This type of study usually gives the most reliable evidence about the effects of a treatment

They examined 61 studies in 16,759 adults who smoked. The studies compared e‐cigarettes with:

  • nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches or gum;
  • varenicline (a medicine to help people stop smoking);
  • nicotine‐free e‐cigarettes;
  • other types of nicotine‐containing e‐cigarettes (e.g. pod devices, newer devices);
  • behavioural support, such as advice or counselling; or
  • no support for stopping smoking.

They found:

  • More people probably stop smoking for at least six months using nicotine e‐cigarettes than using nicotine replacement therapy
  • More people probably stop smoking for at least six months using nicotine e‐cigarettes than nicotine‐free e‐cigarettes
  • Nicotine e‐cigarettes may help more people to stop smoking than no support or behavioural support only
  • For every 100 people using nicotine e‐cigarettes to stop smoking, 9 to 14 might successfully stop, compared with only 6 of 100 people using nicotine‐replacement therapy, 7 of 100 using nicotine‐free e‐cigarettes, or four of 100 people having no support or behavioural support only
  • No appreciable difference in unwanted effects resulting from vaping compared to nicotine replacement therapy, no support or behavioural support only
  • The unwanted effects reported most often with nicotine e‐cigarettes were throat or mouth irritation, headache, cough and feeling sick. These effects reduced over time as people continued using nicotine e‐cigarettes

The team conclude: “Nicotine e‐cigarettes probably do help people to stop smoking for at least six months. They probably work better than nicotine replacement therapy and nicotine‐free e‐cigarettes. They may work better than no support, or behavioural support alone, and they may not be associated with serious unwanted effects.”


  1. Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation –
Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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