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E-cigs may help smokers quit via 'placebo’ effects, says UK medical group

Doctors sometimes use placebo medical treatments in clinic trials to determine if the perceived health benefits of associated traditional medications are real or perhaps all in the mind.  They might substitute a sugar pill for the real thing before measuring the resulting effects.  Now a team of medical professionals spanning 130 countries is conducting research involving the potential placebo effects of vaping as a smoking cessation tool.

The Cochran Group is based in the United Kingdom and focusses on providing medical professionals with guidance in making better decisions regarding patient care.  With the surge in popularity of electronic cigarettes in recent years, more and more smokers are turning to their physicians for advice.  According to a new study, vaping is definitely an option worth considering.

“There is evidence from two trials that ECs help smokers to stop smoking in the long term compared with placebo ECs…None of the included studies…detected serious adverse events considered possibly related to EC use. The most commonly reported adverse effects were irritation of the mouth and throat.”


The Cochran Group also admits that further research is required.  The long-term health effects of e-cigs is still unknown, and the organization is currently reviewing an additional fifteen related studies from third-party sources to gain further insights. 

“We are encouraged to find many studies are now under way, particularly as electronic cigarettes are an evolving technology…In terms of quitting, these can't provide the same information we get from randomized controlled trials, but they contribute further information on the side-effects of using electronic cigarettes to quit smoking…”
-Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, member of the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group

The topic of possible side effects is noteworthy because so many anti-vaping organizations often make false claims about vaping leads to popcorn lung, increased cancer risks, and even formaldehyde consumption.  The Cochran Group seems to be attempting to clear up some of the confusion surrounding e-cigs as a smoking cessation tool for its readership of medical professionals.

Placebo effects of e-cigs look promising

The Cochran Group’s published report entitled Can electronic cigarettes help people stop smoking, and are they safe to use for this purpose? is readily available for review online.  Scientists began by studying the results from 24 different vaping studies published before January 2016 from multiple sources.  However, only two such studies included randomized controlled trials and tracked the results of each of its related participants for at least six months. 

So, the researchers threw the other 22 e-cig studies out and focused only on the two that followed basic scientific principles.  Remarkably, the two relevant studies came from Italy and New Zealand.  No U.S. research made the cut.

What the Cochran Group determined is that vaping with nicotine enhanced e-liquids helps increase the chances of quitting smoking long term compared to e-liquids with zero-nicotine.  They also estimate that none of the 662 smokers from the two studies exhibited any increased health risks as a result.

Furthermore, the placebo effects of e-cigs and vaping technology closely mimic those attributed to other nicotine replacement therapies, such as “the patch” and nicotine gums.  Therefore, electronic cigarettes are worth consideration as a smoking cessation tool, even though the long-term effects are still undocumented. 



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