Free e-cigarettes do not help smokers quit, money does finds study

According to a new study, if the smokers are provided with free electronic cigarettes to help them kick the habit, the efforts may be in vain. The study shows that giving them money helps them instead. The study appeared in the latest issue of the The New England Journal of Medicine this week.

Image Credit: By Hurricanehank / Shutterstock
Image Credit: By Hurricanehank / Shutterstock

For this study the team of researchers included 6131 smokers. They were given different tools to help them quit the habit. This included free nicotine patches, free anti-smoking medications, free e-cigarettes, motivational texts. One group was given e-cigarettes and money. Researcher included the smoker participants from 54 different companies. Some of these received;

  • Motivational texts with why it good to quit
  • Free medications like nicotine patches and gums
  • Free NJOY e-cigarettes
  • Free medications or e-cigarettes plus a total of $600
  • One group received money but it was removed from their account if they did not meet the milestones

At the end of six months, these efforts led to 1.3 percent of smokers quitting smoking. Results showed that those who were given money stopped smoking more than those who were provided with medication and e-cigarettes.

Smoking kills millions of Americans annually. Despite the fact the number of smokers have gone down from before, there are still too many smokers and smoking remains an avoidable or modifiable risk factor for many diseases. Several large corporations are also interested in helping their employees quit because smoking employees are more expensive than non-smoking ones. There have been no studies to look at what helps smokers quit. This study is unique in that way say experts. However researchers warn than this is too preliminary and more studies are necessary to draw conclusions.

In the UK switching to e-cigarettes from traditional ones is encouraged to allow them to quit. In the US however, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have said that as of now e-cigarettes are too new to understand if they are completely safe alternatives to smoking. Further CDC studies have shown that people who take up vaping e-cigarettes to quit regular smoking continue with both.

This new study adds to the fact the substituting cigarettes with electronic ones would not help quit. Lead researcher Scott Halpern, associate professor of medicine at University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine explained that the companies that make e-cigarettes are promoting the fact that they help to quit. He is the associate professor of Medicine, Epidemiology, and Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and a member of the Steering Committee of the Penn Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE). This study shows that giving out free e-cigarettes does not help a person quit smoking. He said that the money was like a “carrot” approach.

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