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Vapes Better Than Patches

The National Institute for Health and Care Research has published findings that show the potential advantage of vapes over patches for pregnant women

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E-cigarettes may be more effective than nicotine patches for pregnant women trying to quit smoking, research by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) found, published in this month’s Nature journal. In addition, the study did not raise any new safety concerns with vaping.

The NIHR says pregnant women are advised to quit smoking because of the damage it can cause to developing babies but many find this difficult. The current guidelines state that nicotine products (such as patches, gum and mouth spray) can help but this research suggests that pregnant women should also consider switching to vaping.

Smoking during pregnancy is dangerous for developing babies and can increase the risk of low birthweight, early (premature) birth and miscarriage.

The authors say: “In the study, similar numbers of pregnant women quit smoking, whether they were given e-cigarettes or nicotine patches. When the researchers looked at women who only used the treatment they were allocated (without using other products), almost twice as many women quit with e-cigarettes than with nicotine patches.

“Both approaches were safe. The only meaningful difference was that fewer women in the e-cigarette group had children with low birthweight (weighing less than 2,500 grams). The researchers say this is most likely because e-cigarettes reduced the use of real cigarettes.”

Current NHS advice states vaping is much safer for women and their babies than continuing to smoke.

The authors noted: “E-cigarettes have been shown to be more effective than nicotine replacement therapy in people who are not pregnant. Increasingly, pregnant women use e-cigarettes to quit smoking. Before this study, it was not known how effective or safe they are during pregnancy.”

The study found that e-cigarettes are as safe as nicotine patches for pregnant women and may be more effective at helping women to quit.

Commenting on the study findings, author Peter Hajek, Director of Health and Lifestyle Research Unit, Wolfson Institute of Population Health, Queen Mary University of London, said: E-cigarettes seem more effective than nicotine patches in helping pregnant women to quit smoking and because of this, they seem to also lead to better pregnancy outcomes. The evidence-based advice to smokers already includes, among other options, a recommendation to switch from smoking to e-cigarettes. Such a recommendation can now be extended to smokers who are pregnant as well.

Action on Smoking and Health’s Policy Manager John Waldron said: “There is already strong evidence that e-cigarettes are effective at helping non-pregnant people to quit smoking. This study confirms that e-cigarettes are nearly twice as effective as nicotine patches at helping pregnant women to quit smoking. They were also as safe as other nicotine replacement products.

“Some women in the trial reported that they stopped vaping and went back to smoking due to concerns about the harms of vaping. Attempts to use e-cigarettes to help pregnant women quit have been hindered by widespread misperceptions that smoking is safer than vaping. This research should reassure healthcare professionals and service users that e-cigarettes are both safe and effective for helping pregnant women to quit smoking. They should be recommended alongside nicotine replacement therapy. Quitting smoking during pregnancy is the best decision for the health of pregnant women and their babies.

“Future research could look at how effective e-cigarettes are at preventing women from resuming smoking after they give birth.”

Speaking as a member of the public, Angela King said: “As an ex-smoker (with no experience of smoking in pregnancy), I think that the closeness of e-cigarettes to the action of smoking is probably relevant. Holding a cigarette to the mouth is part of the ‘ritual’ and I know of others like me, who gave up before e-cigarettes, who found it necessary to occupy our hands when experiencing cravings. This probably gives e-cigarettes an added advantage to nicotine replacement therapy.

“The study has demonstrated that e-cigarettes do not pose a greater risk to health than nicotine patches. Given the choice between patches and e-cigarettes, I suspect that more than a few pregnant women would take up e-cigarettes.

Smoking Cessation Practitioner Nicky Coote added: The findings of the study appear to be robust, and it had good methodology. But short-acting products (mouth spray) weren’t provided in combination with long-acting treatments (patches). This may have led to women using products they weren’t assigned.

“The study highlights the need to investigate the long-term effects of nicotine on developing babies, but certainly it seems that e-cigarettes are useful in many circumstances. They offer a significantly less harmful option than continuing to smoke tobacco.


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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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