Are Electronic Cigarettes Safe to Help Smokers Quit?

Smokers who use an electronic cigarette to quit smoking are more likely to abstain from smoking for at least 6 months than those who do not, according to a new Cochrane Review.

Many smokers use electronic cigarettes to quit smoking. However, the efficacy and safety of electronic cigarette use in achieving long-term smoking abstinence is unknown.


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To conduct their review, the researchers searched online databases for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in which smokers who were motivated or unmotivated to quit were randomly assigned to an electronic cigarette or a control condition from January 2004 to January 2016.

Of the 1700 records identified, 3 completed RCTs—2 of which were eligible for cessation meta-analysis—and 21 completed cohort studies were included in the analysis.

Results showed that individuals who used an electronic cigarette to quit smoking were more likely to abstain from smoking for at least 6 months than those using placebo.

None of the studies in the analysis reported serious adverse events related to electronic cigarette use.

“There is evidence from two trials that [electronic cigarettes] help smokers to stop smoking in the long term compared with placebo [electronic cigarettes],” the researchers conclude. “However, the small number of trials, low event rates, and wide confidence intervals around the estimates mean that our confidence in the result is rated 'low' by GRADE standards.”

—Amanda Balbi


Hartmann-Boyce J, McRobbie H, Bullen C, Begh R, Stead LF, Hajek P. Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation [published online September 14, 2016]. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010216.pub3.