E-cigarettes and smoking cessation: evidence from a systematic review and meta-analysis

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 30;10(3):e0122544. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0122544. eCollection 2015.


Background: E-cigarettes are currently being debated regarding their possible role in smoking cessation and as they are becoming increasingly popular, the research to date requires investigation.

Objectives: To investigate whether the use of e-cigarettes is associated with smoking cessation or reduction, and whether there is any difference in efficacy of e-cigarettes with and without nicotine on smoking cessation.

Data sources: A systematic review of articles with no limit on publication date was conducted by searching PubMed, Web of Knowledge and Scopus databases.

Methods: Published studies, those reported smoking abstinence or reduction in cigarette consumption after the use of e-cigarettes, were included. Studies were systematically reviewed, and meta-analyses were conducted using Mantel-Haenszel fixed-effect and random-effects models. Degree of heterogeneity among studies and quality of the selected studies were evaluated.

Results: Six studies were included involving 7,551 participants. Meta-analyses included 1,242 participants who had complete data on smoking cessation. Nicotine filled e-cigarettes were more effective for cessation than those without nicotine (pooled Risk Ratio 2.29, 95%CI 1.05-4.97). Amongst 1,242 smokers, 224 (18%) reported smoking cessation after using nicotine-enriched e-cigarettes for a minimum period of six months. Use of such e-cigarettes was positively associated with smoking cessation with a pooled Effect Size of 0.20 (95%CI 0.11-0.28). Use of e-cigarettes was also associated with a reduction in the number of cigarettes used.

Limitations: Included studies were heterogeneous, due to different study designs and gender variation. Whilst we were able to comment on the efficacy of nicotine vs. non-nicotine e-cigarettes for smoking cessation, we were unable to comment on the efficacy of e-cigarettes vs. other interventions for cessation, given the lack of comparator groups in the studies included in this meta-analysis.

Conclusions: Use of e-cigarettes is associated with smoking cessation and reduction. More randomised controlled trials are needed to assess effectiveness against other cessation methods.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Nicotine / analysis
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*


  • Nicotine

Grants and funding

The authors have no support or funding to report.