When it comes to quitting smoking, the usually overambitious idea is ignited in our minds towards the end of December and announced as a number one New Year’s resolution. However, it is not always easy to stick to, and the motivation can disappear into a puff of smoke – literally. Quitting ‘cold turkey’ can work for some of us and may achieve a short-term goal, but it is not a decision to rely on indefinitely. Somewhat outdated images of slapping a nicotine patch on our arms or masticating maliciously on nicotine gum can seem like an unappealing alternative; failing to properly sublimate the craving because it is too different from enacting the habit you are used to. How about electronic cigarettes? Let’s see how effective these really are...

In Europe, 6.1 million people have taken to the e-cigarette to quench their yearning and quit smoking. According to Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, his co-authors and peers from the University of Patras-Greece, Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre and the French National Research Institute for Health and Medical Research – the impactful findings of the study can be found in Addiction, the scientific journal. Here, the authors’ analysis of the Eurobarometer data (which includes a sample of 27,460 EU citizens, from aged 15-years-old and up) is printed in black and white, without any ash-grey areas of ambiguity. The article also draws attention to a contentious argument that perceives e-cigarettes as a way to encourage new smokers, as opposed to helping current smokers to quit.

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This study uses the information gathered from the 2014 Special Eurobarometer survey which is notably one of the largest population based surveys that has ever been conducted. What is the ‘Eurobarometer’, you may be asking? Here is the explanation from the scientists themselves: “The questionnaire of the Eurobarometer is probably one of the most detailed ever used in analysing electronic cigarette use on a population level. It provides detailed information about the frequency of use, differentiates experimentation from regular use and examines the use of nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes. Moreover, the survey enrolled a large sample of Europeans which was representative of the total EU population. A similar design should be used in all population studies.”

The study, taken from a sample of European Union residents, has returned the following results for e-cigarette usage:

- Approximately 6.1 million smokers have quit smoking

- Over 9 million have decreased their smoking consumption

- Out of 508 million, up to 48.5 million have tried e-cigarettes as an alternative

- 7.5 million are currently using e-cigarettes

- 35% (over 2.6 million) of current e-cigarette users have quit smoking

- 32% (approximately 2.4 million) have cut down their smoking intake

In conclusion, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos states: “These are probably the highest rates of smoking cessation and reduction ever observed in such a large population study.” Farsalinos and his peers outlined from the study that those using e-cigarettes are predominantly people who are currently smoking or those who have quit. The data indicated that it is rare for a non-smoker to use an electronic version, without having smoked a nicotine cigarette beforehand. Dr. Jacques Le Houezec supports this claim: “In non-smokers we observed some experimentation with electronic cigarettes, but regular use is minimal. Just 1.3% of non-smokers reported current use of nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes and 0.09% reported daily use. Practically, there is no current or regular use of nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes by non-smokers, so the concern that electronic cigarettes can be a gateway to smoking is largely rejected by our findings.”

From the 2014 Special Eurobarometer survey and the analysis performed by Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, et al, the EU study proves that electronic cigarettes usage can dramatically reduce rates of smoking and is not a dangerous habit that encourages non-smokers to take up. It also raises the platform for e-cigarettes in the Public Health forum as a serious contender for smokers to utilise – a serious means to a glorious end so you can fulfil your resolution to quit any time of the year!

E-cigarettesElectronic cigarettesQuit smokingSmokingSpecial eurobarometer survey

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