Using E-Cigarettes for Smoking Cessation: Evaluation of a Pilot Project in the North West of England

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: For every five smokers who entered a four-week pilot scheme to support them quitting tobacco by substituting e-cigarettes, three people stayed in the program and reduced their cigarette smoking, and one person cut out tobacco altogether. Based on these results, e-cigarettes appear to be an effective nicotine replacement therapy.

The most recent Public Health England (PHE) evidence review reports that using e-cigarettes, or ‘vaping’, poses only a small fraction of the risk of smoking, and the comparative risks of cardiovascular and lung disease are substantially below the risks of smoking. Evidence from one source suggests that the cancer potencies of e-cigarettes were under 0.5% of the risk of smoking.

This program provided smokers with free e-cigarettes, liquid, and support from either pharmacy or community providers. The pilot was instigated in a deprived area in NW England where smoking rates are almost three times higher among lower earners, compared to the highest earners.

Of the 1022 participants who engaged with the pilot, 614 were still engaged at 4 weeks, of whom 62% had quit smoking. Quitting was more likely in younger participants (aged 18–24) and less likely in those who were sick and disabled. Of those who still smoked tobacco at week four, smoking had reduced from a baseline of 19.1 cigarettes per day to 8.7. For those who provided CO readings at baseline and follow-up, the behavior change was confirmed by significant reductions in CO from 13.9 to 5.1 ppm.

In this study, the mixed fruit liquid was the most popular flavor. This finding is similar to the literature, which in the U.S. indicates that cigarette smokers who have switched to e-cigarettes are more likely to choose non-tobacco e-cigarette flavors and to have transitioned to non-tobacco flavors over time. Tobacco and menthol flavors rank as the fifth and sixth most popular flavors in the U.S.

Among those who participated in an incentive at the end of the program, most chose free e-cigarette liquid over a shopping voucher, a further indication of participants’ engagement with e-cigarettes.

Read the full study HERE.