A recent study in the UK showing that e-cigarettes could be more effective than NRT in helping smokers to quit. But, researchers around the world have drawn mixed conclusions from previous studies into their safety.
For example, in the US, the FDA has been very cautious when it comes to encouraging e-cigarette use. This is because, the agency claims, the long term effects are still very much unknown.
There are also fears that e-cigarettes could lead to more teenagers starting smoking – especially since so many brands offer flavours that would appeal to young people.
In the UK, however, Public Health England has recommended that e-cigarettes should be rolled out across the health service as a tool in cutting the number of smokers.
This is a view that has been supported by some, but many European countries have still taken a similar stance to the US.
With this in mind, are e-cigarettes actually safe? And when it comes to bringing down smoking rates around the world, which methods is more effective: e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy?
- Less health risks than traditional cigarettes
- Safer alternative for long-term smokers who are unable to quit using other methods
- Contain nicotine, but do not have as many other toxins or carcinogens as cigarettes
- They reduce the risk of lung cancer in smokers
- Can reduce the risks posed to smokers with asthma
- They contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance. There have been reports of vaping leading to smoking.
- E-liquids can contain additives and particles that pose a health risk
- Liquids can lead to accidental poisoning in the hands of children
- There’s a risk of burns, accidents, or malfunctioning from faulty devices or chargers
- As a new product, there’s limited research on their safety and effectiveness
Nicotine replacement therapy
- Available in small doses, for instance, gum and lozenges; or, available in one off daily product, like patches
- Inexpensive and sometimes available over the counter
- Usually easy to use and studies have proven NRT methods to be safe
- Effective in reducing the effects of nicotine withdrawal
- Different products and doses are available for different individuals
- Can cause side effects including nausea, skins reactions, sleep disturbance, or throat irritation depending on the type of product used
- Some NRT products are best used in combination with another agent
- Long terms users can become dependant on NRT
- Some types of NRT require a prescription from a doctor
As you can see, both methods have various advantages and disadvantages. Nicotine replacement therapy has been around longer, and therefore has proven to be safe and effective.
However, e-cigarettes have shown much higher success rates in some countries, and there are studies that support their use.
In the long run, only time will tell as to which of the two will be the most widely used and effective in reducing the harm caused by smoking around the world.