Research Finds Vaping Better than NRT

/ 5 min read

Research Finds Vaping Better than NRT

There is a growing body of evidence in favour of vaping as a smoking cessation tool. This evidence has become more and more robust in recent years, so much so that it has begun to silence many anti-vaping opinions.

The 29th September this year saw the UK government produce the eighth in a series of reports on vaping which have run since their landmark 2015 review which stated vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking. These reports are regarded as the most comprehensive in the world and each year they have consistently found the evidence to be strongly in favour of vaping as a tool to combat smoking rates.

This has led to a number of exciting ideas including NHS vaping trials utilising simple vapes similar to the EDGE GO and Pro. Not to mention The Khan Review, which placed vaping at the heart of a comprehensive plan to get UK smoking rates down to 5% - the government’s target for a ‘smokefree 2030’.

In even more recent news however, the evidence has once again been flagged in favour of vaping over traditional Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT) like patches and gums. This report was presented by Cochrane, a leading policy institute based in London.

Cochrane Logo

What is Cochrane?

Cochrane is a British international charitable group, formed to organise medical research and findings to facilitate policies and decision making on healthcare based on strong evidence. They are made up of 53 different research institutions worldwide.

The organisation includes many influential healthcare experts from varied fields including chief academics from Cancer Research UK and Oxford university to name but a few. They are highly influential and their reports are very well respected.

Woman vaping in a cafe

The Evidence in Favour of Vaping vs NRT

The November 2022 Cochrane review found that e-cigarettes help people to quit far better than other options, with vapers more likely to stop for at least six months vs NRT users.

The report included 78 completed studies, representing 22,052 participants. This collected results showed that there was ‘high certainty’ that quit rates were higher in people using nicotine e-cigarettes than those using NRT.

This report stated that if six in 100 people quit by using nicotine replacement therapy, eight to twelve would quit by using electronic cigarettes containing nicotine. This means an additional two to six people in 100 could potentially quit smoking with nicotine containing electronic cigarettes. This was even higher when compared to those using only behavioural support, or no support at all.

This suggests that even for those people who may not want to approach Stop Smoking Services (SSS) for help, whatever their reason may be, vaping can still be a strong support on a quitting journey even without additional assistance.

The increasing variety and accessibility of vaping products to consumers also grants people the greatest flexibility than ever before when beginning a vaping journey, such as our own subscription service, which allows people to manage their vaping with simplicity and ease comparable to smoking.

Convenience like this is important in empowering people to make choices about their wellbeing, and can make getting started easier. As evidenced by the staggering popularity of the simplest e-cigs on the market: Disposable vapes.

The Reasons Behind the Report

Smoking is a significant global health problem. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2020, 22.3% of the global population used tobacco, despite it killing up to half of its users. Stopping smoking reduces the risk of lung cancer, heart attacks and many other diseases. Though most people who smoke want to quit, many find it difficult to do so permanently. Vaping is now evidenced as the best tool internationally to combat this issue.

Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce is Associate Professor at the University of Oxford, and the Editor of the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group. He is also one of the authors of this latest report. Dr Hartmann-Boyce said:

“Electronic cigarettes have generated a lot of misunderstanding in both the public health community and the popular press since their introduction over a decade ago. These misunderstandings discourage some people from using e-cigarettes as a stop smoking tool.”

“Fortunately, more and more evidence is emerging and provides further clarity. With support from Cancer Research UK, we search for new evidence every month as part of a living systematic review. We identify and combine the strongest evidence from the most reliable scientific studies currently available.

“For the first time, this has given us high-certainty evidence that e-cigarettes are even more effective at helping people to quit smoking than traditional nicotine replacement therapies, like patches or gums.”

Oxford University research lecturer and the Managing Editor for the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group, Dr Nicola Lindson, also collaborated as an author on the report. She commented:

“E-cigarettes do not burn tobacco; and as such they do not expose users to the same complex mix of chemicals that cause diseases in people smoking conventional cigarettes. E-cigarettes are not risk free, and shouldn’t be used by people who don’t smoke or aren’t at risk of smoking. However, evidence shows that nicotine e-cigarettes carry only a small fraction of the risk of smoking.”

“In our review, we did not find evidence of substantial harms caused by nicotine containing electronic cigarettes when used to quit smoking. However, due to the small number of studies and lack of data on long-term nicotine-containing electronic cigarette usage – usage over more than two years – questions remain about long-term effects.”

Response to the Findings

The report has been well received as a welcome addition to the now significant library of evidence supporting vaping’s inclusion to UK SSS. Not only this but experts hope this will help combat the tide of misinformation surrounding vaping and it’s perceived risks. The latter being a vital consideration for the UK’s smokefree plans, as it is believed many people will miss out on the benefits of vaping due to misplaced fear.

Despite the positive findings however, caution is still being applied in light of the less available long-term data, which only time will now reveal.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive at Cancer Research UK, said:

“We welcome this report which adds to a growing body of evidence showing that e-cigarettes are an effective smoking cessation tool. We strongly discourage those who have never smoked from using e-cigarettes, especially young people. This is because they are a relatively new product and we don’t yet know the long term health effects.”

“While the long-term effects of vaping are still unknown, the harmful effects of smoking are indisputable – smoking causes around 55,000 cancer deaths in the UK every year. Cancer Research UK supports balanced evidence-based regulation on e-cigarettes from UK governments which maximises their potential to help people stop smoking, whilst minimising the risk of uptake among others.”