Ever since they hit the market, e-cigarettes have been controversial. Some health experts say they help people quit regular cigarettes. But others say they not only don’t help you kick the tobacco habit, but they cause their own set of health problems.
Even the Food and Drug Administration got into the act by issuing a statement that e-cigarettes “may be effective aids to help quit smoking.”1
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that vaporize nicotine. They are also known as vape pens. They’ve been sold in the U.S. since 2007.2
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania wanted to find out which smoking cessation program works best. They included e-cigarettes in their study.
They gathered more than 6,000 cigarette smokers who wanted to quit. Then they divided the participants into five groups. Each group was given different smoking-cessation aids:
Group 1: Educational resources, including text messages, about why they should quit smoking.
Group 2: Nicotine patches and gum.
Group 3: E-cigarettes.
Group 4: Nicotine patches and gum plus $600 in cash, payable if they could go six months without a cigarette.
Group 5: Nicotine patches and gum plus $600 upfront. But they had to pay back the money if they had a cigarette.
Over 12% of the people in group 5 quit smoking. Almost 5% of the people in Group 4 also quit. These groups both had money incentives to do so.
On the other hand, the groups 1, 2, and 3 all showed a quit rate of only about 1%.
Dr. Scott Halpern is an associate professor of Medicine, Epidemiology, and Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. He was the lead author of the study.
“The very best way to help them (smokers) quit is to offer them money,” he said.3
And the findings also show that “offering e-cigarettes for free doesn’t help people quit.”4
The researchers published their study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The Best Way to Quit Smoking
Despite what you might have heard, e-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to cigarettes. The vapor can contain toxins such as formaldehyde, carcinogens, and heavy metal particles from the metal cartridge.5
There’s a quit-smoking strategy that works better than e-cigarettes – and even better than monetary incentives.
A study by University of Oxford researchers found that behavioral counseling increases the chances of quitting by between 40% and 60%.6
Behavioral therapy or counseling is a way to unlearn habits. It involves discussions of thoughts and feelings when the smoker practices the behavior. These discussions can be with professional counselors or even friends or spouses.
They can include individual in-person sessions, telephone counseling, group sessions, and written advice. All were found to be effective, although individual counseling worked best.
There are two easy ways to access behavioral counseling:
1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). Calling this toll-free number will connect you directly to your state’s quit line. All states have trained coaches who provide phone counseling.
1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848) This National Cancer Institute program offers referrals to trained counselors.
One more thing… Stay away from smoking-cessation drugs like Chantix and Zyban. Studies show they don’t improve your chances of quitting. And they are linked to depression, seizures, insomnia, headaches, and high blood pressure.7