For all the criticism thrown at e-cigarettes of late, they do have one redeeming quality: They might be a powerful way to help people quit nicotine altogether.
A new British study found that e-cigarettes were nearly twice as successful as nicotine patches or gum for smoking cessation, reports the New York Times. Over the course of one year, researchers followed 886 smokers separated into two camps–an e-cigarette test group vs. those who relied on traditional nicotine replacement therapies. All received at least four weekly counseling sessions that guided them in their smoking efforts.
The results found that 18% of those in the e-cigarette test group were successful, compared to 9.9% of those in the traditional therapies group.
These new findings are making some reconsider e-cigarette companies such as Juul, which have been lambasted for their role in the youth vaping epidemic. The FDA found that high school teen e-cigarette use was up by about 77% in 2018, and nearly 50% for middle schoolers.
As Fast Company reporter Ainsley Harris reported last year, Juul controls more than 70% of the U.S. e-cigarette market. The company’s sales likely topped $1 billion last year, with its valuation rumored to be more than $16 billion. All the while, the digitally native smoking brand been defending itself from lawsuits, FDA investigations, and accusations that it willfully targeted the youth market.
Now such products might be seen as valuable in the public health effort to wean consumers off nicotine. Competing smoking cessation tools such as gum or patches release nicotine at a slower and steadier rate, while e-cigarettes provide an effect more similar to a traditional cigarette. As such, they make for a more seamless transition for those trying to quit.
In her report, Harris corresponded with a Juul user on Reddit who explained why e-cigarettes are a far more promising smoking cessation option. “I tried pretty much every [smoking cessation] product and trick over the course of the last 10 years (30-year habit),” he wrote. “Nothing worked. Most never made it past a day. The Juul, and mango [flavor] has stuck for two months now. And while I have cravings, none has been strong enough to [go back to] tobacco.”