Cochrane: 'Vaping effective for smoking cessation'

"There is a scientific consensus that e-cigarettes are less harmful to smokers and their environment than traditional cigarettes. There is also strong evidence that ecigs help smokers quit, more effectively than nicotine medicines."
So says Jamie Hartmann-Boyce of the Cohcrane Tobacco Addiction Group.

(Updated article February 2023)

The WHO advocates ban on e-cigarettes. The Swedish government wanted banning virtually all flavourings in the e-liquid, something that Denmark and Finland have already done so. Lobbying to restrict the availability of vejp products is intensive and often successful. But in United Kingdom, where authorities and a range of health organisations are investing in billion on research on e-cigarettes, bans and tighter restrictions are the wrong way to go. According to Jamie Hartrman-Boyce, doctor and head of research at the Department of Health Behaviours at the University of Oxford.

"Smoking is unique in terms of deadly consequences and for some people it is very difficult to quit smoking. E-cigarettes are not risk-free, and former non-smokers should not start using them. But from public health authorities, the message to smokers must be crystal clear. Nicotine is addictive but not the cause of the harm that smoking causes," says Mr Perez. Jamie Hartmann-Boyce

Evidence suggests that e-cigs work

Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, is responsible for Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group - part of the Cochrane Library, which evaluates health care practices based on evidence and quality studies from around the world. The group recently published an updated summary of randomised control trials focusing on e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation method. In total, the researchers identified 78 studies, including 40 randomised control trials, with a total of 22,000 participants. The studies compared e-cigarettes with other nicotine medicines for a period of at least 6 months.

"The evidence is clear and we can now say with high confidence that e-cigarettes with nicotine can indeed help smokers quit. The evidence also clearly indicates that they are more effective than nicotine medicines. Our review also shows that vejping is significantly less harmful than smoking, at least in the short and medium term." says Jamie Hartmann-Boyce.

Getting side effects with e-cigarettes

According to the report (which began in 2014), e-cigarettes are associated with twice as many successful quit attempts compared to traditional nicotine medicines. E-cigarette users also report few problems associated with quitting smoking. Cough, headache, dry mouth and dizziness are common but transient side effects. 

"We couldn't find many reports that showed harm from e-cigarette use, but the studies that did follow up on this only went back two years. It is important that we monitor this continuously," writes Mr J.friend Hartmann-Boyce and her colleagues in the report.

Critical of the WHO

Jamie Hartmann-Boyce however, reacts strongly to WHO's position on e-cigarettes. The organisation proposes severe restrictions or even a ban on electronic cigarettes. The justification is that the products should be classified as harmful and cannot be considered safe, a position shared by the Swedish Public Health Agency. Instead, they recommend traditional nicotine medicines sold through various pharmaceutical companies.

"The WHO's decision to label e-cigarettes as "clearly harmful" risks scaring hesitant smokers away from trying them. But it also casts doubt on those who vejpake to stay smoke-free. In reality, there is a scientific consensus that vejping is significantly less harmful than smoking, both for smokers and those around them," says Mr Perez. Jamie Hartmann-Boyce.

"As safe as nicotine medicines - but better"

She is joined by John Britton, Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham and Advisor on Tobacco Issues at the European Commission. British Medical Association (He said it is clear that the WHO has not understood what the research really shows: that e-cigarettes are an important tool to tackle smoking worldwide and that the technology outperforms previous methods.

"The WHO and many others continue to advocate approaches based on nicotine medicines. This is sheer hypocrisy, when at the same time they are proposing to ban consumer products that are just as safe, work the same way, but much better," said Mr Perez. John Britton to Science Media Centre.

Damage minimisation part of Swedish strategy

Since 2021, the Swedish Parliament has decided that harm minimisation will become part of the Swedish framework for combating the harmful effects of smoking. In 2022, the Social Democratic government therefore appointed a investigation to assess harmfulness and differences between different nicotine products. In 2022, the European Parliament voted in favour. Swedish parliament a proposal to ban flavours in e-cigarettes and e-liquid.


Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation

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