BERLIN -- Smokers who used an e-cigarette to try to quit smoking were about 60 per cent more successful than those who used other over-the-counter nicotine-replacement therapies in an attempt to quit, British researchers said in a study published in the journal Addiction.
The 5,863-person survey questioned people who tried to quit between 2009 and 2014, as e-cigarettes gained popularity. About one-fifth of the people who said they'd tried to abstain from tobacco in the past year using e-cigarettes said they still weren't smoking at the time they were surveyed.
The study comes as governments wrestle with how to regulate the $3-billion market for e-cigarettes. The results are part of an emerging body of evidence suggesting e-cigarettes be considered for medical licensing, said lead author Jamie Brown, a researcher in the University College London department of clinical, educational and health psychology.
"It's certainly one piece of the jigsaw puzzle," Brown said in a telephone interview.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration proposed last month to extend its oversight of the tobacco industry to include e-cigarettes. New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have banned their use in some public places.
One sticking point has been whether the battery-powered tubes with their clouds of nicotine vapour could serve as a gateway for teenagers to start smoking the real thing. A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in 10 American high school students reported using an e-cigarette in 2012, compared with 4.7 per cent a year earlier.
In England, smoking rates are declining and regular e-cigarette use among people who haven't smoked the real thing is "negligible," researchers for the study said. Funded by Cancer Research U.K., the report used data from the Smoking Toolkit Study, a national surveillance program begun in 2009.