Growth in the use of e-cigarettes has been associated with a higher rate of successful attempts to quit smoking.
U.K. researchers have assessed data from the Smoking Toolkit Study, which involves monthly household surveys of a representative sample of individuals aged 16 years and older in England.
Accordingly, they found that in 2015 the use of e-cigarettes may have resulted in an additional 18,000 long-term ex-smokers.
“Although these numbers are relatively small, they are clinically significant because of the huge health gains from stopping smoking,” the report authors said in a statement.
Researchers add that a 40-year-old smoker who quits permanently can expect to gain nine life years compared with a continuing smoker.
However, as with an observational study, firm conclusions about cause and effect cannot be drawn.
But the authors explain that the results “conflict with the hypothesis” that an increase in use of e-cigarettes undermines quitting in general.
John Britton from the University of Nottingham said the study indicates the successful quitting through substitution with electronic cigarettes is a “likely contributor” to the falling prevalence of smoking.
A number of potential factors – both those measured and unaccounted for – may have influenced the results, and “it therefore remains unclear whether, or by how much, the availability of e-cigarettes has influenced quitting behaviour in the U.K.,” he explained.
Nevertheless, he notes that the significant year-on-year fall in smoking “indicates that something in U.K. tobacco control policy is working, and successful quitting through substitution with e-cigarettes is one likely major contributor. The challenge for public health is to embrace the potential of this new technology, and put it to full use.”
The results were published by The BMJ.
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