E-cigs with nicotine could help women quit smoking - NZ research

Nicotine electronic cigarettes could help smokers quit.

Nicotine electronic cigarettes could help smokers quit.

Electronic cigarettes with nicotine could be a useful tool in helping women, in particular, quit or reduce tobacco smoking, New Zealand research suggests.

But the required nicotine-containing liquid was not legally for sale in this country, although electronic cigarettes were, said study co-author Professor Randolph Grace from the Canterbury University Psychology Department.

Some people were ordering the nicotine e-cigs online from a website in China, but many economically disadvantaged people were unable to do so because they did not have credit cards.

The lack of a credit card particularly affected Maori and Pasifika, who were about twice as likely to smoke as other groups, Grace said.

The researchers provided 357 New Zealand smokers who had no intention to quit with a sample of a nicotine e-cig during interviews in November and December 2012.

Overall, participants rated the nicotine e-cigs to be 83.3 per cent as satisfying as their own-brand tobacco, but for women the figure was 91 per cent, while for men it was 74 per cent.

There were 227 participants who agreed to be re-interviewed in February and March 2013, following a 10 per cent rise in tobacco tax. Of that group,  37.8 per cent said they had cut back or made a change in their smoking habit, while 7 per cent had quit.

Most of the reasons given by participants for smoking less were economic, but those who had cut their smoking were also those who had a more favourable impression of the nicotine e-cigs, Grace said.

Perhaps those wanting to quit or cutback were more likely to see the e-cigs as an attractive potentially healthier alternative.

One reason the nicotine e-cigs could be particularly useful for women was that nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches or gum, were less effective in helping women reduce tobacco smoking than men.

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"It seems as if the physiological aspect of nicotine addiction is relatively more important in maintaining smoking for men. For women there's relatively more importance for the contextual factors, the behaviour," Grace said.

With e-cigs, people could continue to take part in the behaviour of smoking.

Very strong evidence indicated e-cigs were less harmful than tobacco. The carcinogens in smoking did not come from nicotine but from the burning of tobacco and additives.

Grace said some researchers, including himself, felt a harm minimisation strategy would allow smokers to legally buy nicotine e-cigs in this country if they wanted to quit smoking.

Other researchers, including some practitioners in the addiction field, were against the legalisation of nicotine e-cigs because of concerns young people could become hooked on them.

In his view nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes should be legal for sale to smokers who wanted to use them to quit or reduce the amount of tobacco cigarettes they were smoking, Grace said.

"I wouldn't legalise them open slather because there is a potential for young people to get addicted to nicotine."

Other co-authors of the study were Dr Bronwyn Kivell from the School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University and Dr Murray Laugesen from Canterbury University and Health New Zealand.

 - Stuff

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