E-cigarettes May Help Smokers Quit, Improve Health

Switching to e-cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes, from traditional tobacco cigarettes may help smokers quit smoking. Furthermore, even substituting a few tobacco cigarettes with e-cigarettes may offer modest improvements in health, says a new study in a working paper from independent university researchers at the Tobacco Harm Reduction project.

E-cigarettes are a device that deliver nicotine to the user by vaporizing a gel composed of water, propylene glycol, flavorings, and nicotine. Because the devices do not expose users to the products of combustion associated with tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes are touted as a safer alternative to smoking. The risk of death associated with e-cigarettes is similar to the risk associated with other smokeless tobacco products, which is approximately 1 percent of the risk of smoking.

The e-cigarette industry is infamous for making the claim that e-cigarettes will help smokers quit smoking. However, such controversial claims are not yet backed up by legitimate research.

For example, as reported by Medical News Today, a press release for e-cigarettes on The Electronic Cigarette Hub proclaims:

“E-cigarettes have already helped thousands of people, including actress Katherine Heigl. Users say it looks and feels like smoking a real cigarette. The E-cigarette even has the glowing red tip; but unlike a tobacco cigarette, it produces an odorless water vapor – there is no smoke; you don’t light it.”

In the present study, researchers investigated the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation as well as changes in health including the symptoms caused by smoking. The participants in the study included 303 individuals who were enrolled by e-mail and links on various blogs and forums between May 2009 and June 2009.


Of the total number of participants, 91 percent had made attempts to quit smoking before switching to e-cigarettes. Seven-nine percent were using e-cigarettes instead of tobacco cigarettes. Seventeen percent were using e-cigarettes as a partial replacement for tobacco cigarettes. Four percent were using e-cigarettes in addition to tobacco cigarettes.

Furthermore, 91 percent of the participants report an improvement to their general health as well as an improvement in smoking-related symptoms such as cough, sense of taste, and sense of smell since switching to e-cigarettes. Individuals who had completely switched to e-cigarettes from tobacco cigarettes were most likely to experience health improvements, but substituting even a few e-cigarettes for tobacco cigarettes offered some modest health benefits.

However, the claims that e-cigarettes are less dangerous alternative to tobacco cigarettes and that e-cigarettes can help smokers quit smoking are still controversial and inconclusive. Further research needs to be conducted to evaluate the claims reported in the present study.

Would you ever try e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit smoking?