I had to chuckle last night at work as I watched a 90-something year old patient lying on a stretcher clad in a greenish hospital gown sucking urgently on an electronic cigarette. It was a bit of a shock to observe someone, especially a gruff elderly man, puffing away in public. When the nursing home took away his Marlboros, this man turned to the next best thing. Naturally, this encounter led me to the question “Are electronic cigarettes an effective smoking cessation technique?”
Earlier this week, I discussed recent research indicating that quitting smoking by the age of 40 can nearly restore one’s life expectancy to that of a non-smoker. I also explored the efficacy of various smoking cessation techniques. I did not, however include the electronic cigarette.
This genius invention became available to the American public in 2006 and 2.5 million Americans currently use these devices. The electronic cigarette can be used with or without nicotine and gives off a vapor stimulating smoking tobacco. Although use of electronic cigarettes is relatively new, researchers have gathered some preliminary data regarding it’s efficacy as a smoking cessation tool. Studies show that 6 months after giving up traditional cigarettes, 31% of electronic cigarette users had quit smoking and 66% had decreased the amount of cigarettes smoked. Electronic cigarette users who smoked the device at lease 20 times each day had an astounding 70% cessation rate.
Smokers relying on electronic cigarettes for a fix also reported positive health effects even when using the device as only a partial replacement for smoking tobacco. 97% of userds reported a lower incidence of smoker’s cough and 84% stted they had an increased ability to exercise.
This data places the electronic cigarette right up there with pharmaceutical smoking cessation techniques. The popular drug Chantix boasts a 40% smoking cessation rate at the six month mark and Wellbutrin a 35% quit rate.
Given the high smoking cessation success rate with electronic cigarettes, nurse practitioners should certainly recommend this non-traditional method to their patients attempting to quit smoking.