KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 ― A new global report which studied the use of nicotine in e-cigarettes to help people stop smoking has been released.
The new Cochrane Review ― owned by an independent network of researchers and people interested in health ― reviewed 61 studies involving 16,759 participants.
(The Cochrane Review is internationally recognised as the benchmark for high-quality information about the effectiveness of health care.)
It was found that “more people stopped smoking for at least six months using nicotine e-cigarettes than using nicotine replacement therapy or nicotine-free e-cigarettes.”
The review also looked at trials where people received random treatments as this type of study “usually gives the most reliable evidence about the effects of a treatment.”
In an article in The Conversation (an Australia-based online news organisation), the lead author of the Cochrane Review Jamie Hartmann-Boyce said, “Research shows nicotine e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking and may be more effective than nicotine-replacement therapy. In studies testing e-cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, there was no evidence that people using e-cigarettes were more likely to experience serious health issues.”
Hartmann-Boyce added that “in addition to helping smokers quit, e‐cigarettes are also thought to pose fewer risks to bystanders, while secondhand smoke from cigarettes kills around 1.2 million people a year.”
“It is worth noting that e-cigarettes typically only contain nicotine, not tobacco, which is found in cigarettes. Although nicotine is an addictive substance, tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide, tar and toxic chemicals ― including benzene, arsenic and formaldehyde.
“These substances are known to cause cancer and other heart and lung diseases. The harm from cigarettes largely comes from burning tobacco ― not from the nicotine. E-cigarettes deliver nicotine without burning anything.”
The president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM) Dr Steven Chow said the medical community should examine the Cochrane Review report to verify the validity and relevance of tobacco harm reduction (THR) in smoking cessation.
“Smoking prevalence in Malaysia has plateaued for more than a decade. Existing data shows that there seems to be no decrease in prevalence despite all present and past anti-smoking programmes. The option of adopting supervised THR as the stepping stone towards total smoking cessation should be studied,” he said.
“FPMPAM is of the view that support for any THR programme must be backed by substantive science. The Cochrane Review has the advantage of providing meta-analysis of a big body of multi centred data and is consistently updated.
“Healthcare practitioners need to explore more innovative solutions to reduce smoking incidences in Malaysia, and must be supported with the proper regulatory framework. The ultimate goal must be total cessation so as to lessen the disease burden associated with chronic smoking.”