Do Electronic Cigarettes Really Help People Quit Smoking?

By | January 17, 2014

According to ScientificAmerican.com, 45 million Americans are smokers. In case you need a reminder of how terrible for you smoking really is, here are just four ways it can affect you: smoking causes cancer, heart disease and lung disease, and it can take a decade off your life expectancy.

Maybe they just don’t want to quit…

It’s the opposite, actually. 70% of smokers want to quit, but regardless of the available information and resources out there, a majority of them fail when trying to kick the habit. Cold turkey only works for less than 10% of smokers. 75% of smokers who try to quit are back at the habit within one year, even if they have the help of counseling and FDA-approved aids (nicotine patches and medicines that don’t contain nicotine, for example).

How Strong is Smoking Addiction?

Incredibly strong. Smoking stimulates the body while relaxing it. Once cigarette smoke is inhaled, nicotine attaches itself to receptor molecules on the brain’s nerve cells, which tells the cells to release dopamine and other neurotransmitters which then flood the brain’s pleasure centers. With just a few more puffs on a cigarette, alertness and heart rate are increased. This effect feels great, but it doesn’t last for long, which is why smokers reach for another cigarette within hours, minutes or even seconds.

With time, a smoker’s nicotinic receptors increase, which also increases the need to reduce symptoms of withdrawal, mainly irritability. As if that’s not enough, the habit of smoking becomes intertwined with everyday activities, like driving, drinking coffee, eating or just being bored.

New Smoking Cessation Tools

In an effort to find smoking cessation products that really work, researchers are trying out combinations of drugs and they’re also looking into how genetics affect addiction. Social media is being used for counseling efforts as well. Another new tool to help smokers quit is electronic cigarettes. E-cigarettes give smokers the nicotine they crave but without the toxins found in regular cigarette smoke.

One of the reasons why traditional smoking cessation medications and tools haven’t worked is because they don’t address one important need: handling the cues that smokers use to light up. While the nicotine patch, for example, may deliver nicotine to the brain, it won’t fix the urge to actually have something in your hand if you’re bored or to go through the motion of smoking during your morning commute.

E-Cigarettes vs. Nicotine Patches: A Study

A study that was published earlier this year in The Lancet medical journal, showed that e-cigarettes work just as well as nicotine patches to help people quit smoking. Researchers had the same results when they gave subjects e-cigarettes without the nicotine, too (the placebo). If there’s such a low rate of success with the patch to begin with, though, are e-cigarettes really making a difference? Yes, they are. By using e-cigarettes, participants who couldn’t completely quit still reduced their use of regular cigarettes more than people who used nicotine patches.

57% of the study participants who didn’t quit smoking entirely cut their cigarette use in half or more; only 41% of the participants who used nicotine patches did this. Once the study was finished, one in three of the participants who had been using e-cigarettes, either the nicotine or placebo version, continued to use them.

The Future of E-Cigarettes

Peter Hajek from the U.K. Center for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies as well as the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine said that e-cigarettes are helpful in getting smokers who want to quit to reduce their habit. However, electronic cigarettes may also increase smoking because it normalizes the behavior.

There’s still quite a lot to learn about e-cigarettes concerning their value and long-term effects. Currently, there’s also a debate regarding how to regulate e-cigarettes. More trials, especially long-term ones, are necessary to determine whether or not e-cigarettes are actually powerful tools for quitting smoking.

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Brandon Cooper is a professional blogger that provides information on the latest electronic cigarette developments. He writes for Vape It Now, which sells the best vaporizer pens, vapor cigarette starter kits, e-liquid and more.