E-cigarette use linked to successful attempts to quit smoking

Findings go against concerns that e-cigs undermine motivation and quit attempts

Growth in the use of e-cigarettes in England has been associated with a higher rate of successful attempts to quit smoking, reveals a study published by The BMJ today.

The theory had been that increased e-cigarette use undermined attempts to stop smoking, however this study implies that the opposite is true and that e-cigarette use in fact helps people to quit.

In 2015, use of e-cigarettes may have resulted in an additional 18,000 long-term ex-smokers in England, the study estimates, and the authors say “although these numbers are relatively small, they are clinically significant because of the huge health gains from stopping smoking.”

And what are the health gains?

Well, to put it in life gained rather than lost, a 40-year-old smoker who quits permanently can expect to gain nine life years compared with a continuing smoker!

Gathering the data

Data on about 1200 smokers, aged 16 years and older, who were a part of the Smoking Toolkit Study, were assessed quarterly between 2006 and 2015. Data from the NHS stop smoking services was also assessed and included the quarterly number of individuals setting a quit date at stop smoking services. During the study, 8 029 012 quit dates were set with this programme.


  • Increased e-cigarette use was associated with more success in stopping smoking.
  • Increased use of e-cigarettes corresponded with a decrease in prescription Nicotine Replacement Therapies.
  • Still unclear whether there is any relationship between E-cigarette use and the rate of quit attempts or the use of other quitting aids.
  • There was evidence that investing in mass media campaigns had a positive effect on the use of stop smoking services.


Overall, according to John Britton from the University of Nottingham, the results suggest that “successful quitting through substitution with electronic cigarettes is a likely contributor to the falling prevalence of smoking.”

Britton cautions that there is still much to discover in this area and further research would need to be done to know whether, or by how much, e-cigarette availability has influenced quitting behaviour in the UK. However, he notes that the significant year-on-year fall in smoking “indicates that something in UK 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.”

Read more:

Research: Association between population changes in the use of e-cigarettes on changes in quit attempts, the success of quit attempts, use of smoking cessation pharmacotherapy, and use of stop smoking services: a time-series analysis.

Full Paper: http://www.bmj.com/content/354/bmj.i4645

Journal: The BMJ   Editorial: Electronic cigarettes and smoking cessation in England
Editorial: http://www.bmj.com/content/354/bmj.i4819