Electronic cigarettes can help smokers to give up, joint research from Australian Catholic University (ACU) and the University of Melbourne has found.
The researchers reviewed six recent studies on e-cigarettes, involving 7,552 adult smokers.
They found that among 1,242 smokers, 224 (18 per cent) reported that they gave up smoking by using e-cigarettes for a minimum period of six months.
The researchers also found that nicotine filled e-cigarettes are more effective for cessation than those without nicotine and that the use of e-cigarettes helps smokers cut back on the number of cigarettes that they smoke.
Dr Aziz Rahman, a physician and public health expert from ACU’s Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research, led the research. He said the review provided the most comprehensive evidence to date on e-cigarettes and offered important information for regulatory authorities, policymakers, and public health researchers.
"E-cigarettes are becoming an increasingly popular method of giving up smoking, especially for middle-aged smokers. As cigarettes contain more than 4,000 toxic chemicals and cancer causing agents, e-cigarettes are a better choice, in terms of a harm reduction strategy. However, we still do not know their long term health effects," Dr Rahman said.
Dr Rahman said it was now critical to support more rigorous large-scale research to test the safety of e-cigarettes and to test their effectiveness against other proven smoking cessation methods such as nicotine replacement therapies.
"We are not in favour of the normalisation of smoking by new technology and we do not support the initiation of e-cigarette use among non-smokers. However, our research does add evidence to the current regulatory debate and offers hope to those who wish to give up or cut down on smoking.
"If the safety of e-cigarettes is proven in the long run, they may assist healthcare providers to address smoking cessation challenges more effectively," Dr Rahman said.
The other researchers involved in the study are Professor Linda Worrall-Carter and Dr George Mnatzaganian (ACU) and Dr Nicholas Hann and Associate Professor Andrew Wilson (University of Melbourne).