Background and aims: Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are rapidly increasing in popularity. Two randomized controlled trials have suggested that e-cigarettes can aid smoking cessation, but there are many factors that could influence their real-world effectiveness. This study aimed to assess, using an established methodology, the effectiveness of e-cigarettes when used to aid smoking cessation compared with nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) bought over-the-counter and with unaided quitting in the general population.
Design and setting: A large cross-sectional survey of a representative sample of the English population.
Participants: The study included 5863 adults who had smoked within the previous 12 months and made at least one quit attempt during that period with either an e-cigarette only (n = 464), NRT bought over-the-counter only (n = 1922) or no aid in their most recent quit attempt (n = 3477).
Measurements: The primary outcome was self-reported abstinence up to the time of the survey, adjusted for key potential confounders including nicotine dependence.
Findings: E-cigarette users were more likely to report abstinence than either those who used NRT bought over-the-counter [odds ratio (OR) = 2.23, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.70-2.93, 20.0 versus 10.1%] or no aid (OR = 1.38, 95% CI = 1.08-1.76, 20.0 versus 15.4%). The adjusted odds of non-smoking in users of e-cigarettes were 1.63 (95% CI = 1.17-2.27) times higher compared with users of NRT bought over-the-counter and 1.61 (95% CI = 1.19-2.18) times higher compared with those using no aid.
Conclusions: Among smokers who have attempted to stop without professional support, those who use e-cigarettes are more likely to report continued abstinence than those who used a licensed NRT product bought over-the-counter or no aid to cessation. This difference persists after adjusting for a range of smoker characteristics such as nicotine dependence.
Keywords: Cessation; NRT; cross-sectional population survey; e-cigarettes; electronic cigarettes; nicotine replacement therapy; quitting; smoking.
© 2014 The Authors. Addiction published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Society for the Study of Addiction.