Smoking prevalence rates have stagnated. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as stated: ““To further reduce disease and death from cigarette smoking, declines in cigarette smoking among adults must accelerate.” (CDC MMWR Vol. 59 / No. 35 http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/PDF/wk/mm5935.pdf)
When used as directed to wean down and off nicotine, medicinal nicotine products have a success rate of 7% at 6 months, 5% at one year, and only 2% at 20 months. (Moore D, et al. Effectiveness and safety of nicotine replacement therapy assisted reduction to stop smoking: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 338:b1024 2009 http://www.bmj.com/content/338/bmj.b1024.full.pdf+html)
The main reason medicinal nicotine products are so ineffective is that they require sustained nicotine abstinence. As soon as treatment ends, relapse begins. Dr. Brad Rodu of the University of Louisville states, ““Given that the outcome measure for all smoking cessation trials in the U.S. is complete abstinence, it is no wonder that most cessation methods are deemed failures. For successful tobacco regulation, the FDA must break the public health community’s addiction to abstinence promotion.“ (http://rodutobaccotruth.blogspot.com/2010/10/noteworthy-news-from-norway-snus-is.html)
Let’s compare the success rate of medicinal nicotine to methods that do not require nicotine abstinence.
Dr. Karl Erik Lund compared quit rates, defined as the percentage of ever smokers who are now former smokers, among snus users and never users of snus in seven previously published Norwegian surveys. The results were published in Addiction magazine. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2088345)
|Lund Survey No.||Quit Rate - Snus Users (%)||Quit Rate - Never Snus Users (%)|
It is important to note that not all smokeless tobacco products are alike. Swedish snus is formulated to reduce cancer-causing nitrosamines. Studies show that the health risks associated with Swedish snus use are significantly lower than the health risks of continued smoking. An assessment by Gartner, et al published in Lancet found “There was little difference in health-adjusted life expectancy between smokers who quit all tobacco and smokers who switch to snus (difference of 0.1-0.3 years for men and 0.1-0.4 years for women). For net harm to occur, 14-25 ex-smokers would have to start using snus to offset the health gain from every smoker who switched to snus rather than continuing to smoke. Likewise, 14-25 people who have never smoked would need to start using snus to offset the health gain from every new tobacco user who used snus rather than smoking.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17498798)
As for electronic cigarettes, most of the world-wide panic has been generated by a very misleading press conference held by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regarding their testing of 18 electronic cigarette cartridges made by the two companies engaged in a lawsuit against the agency (a strong signal of bias).
The FDA failed to point out that the highest quantity of “carcinogens” detected in a cartridge is equal to the quantity in an FDA-approved nicotine patch (8 nanograms). The quantity of diethylene glycol detected was so miniscule that a 150 pound person would need to ingest the contents of 100,000 cartridges in a single day to be poisoned. So why all the panic? Electronic cigarettes are about as dangerous as FDA-approved nicotine products, which makes them several orders of magnitude safer than smoking.
Critics keep claiming that there is no proof that electronic cigarettes help people to stop smoking. If by “stop smoking” they mean “achieve total abstinence from nicotine” then the critics are correct. However, if what they mean by “stop smoking” is to stop inhaling smoke and to enjoy all the resulting health benefits, then the critics are wrong. Surveys of electronic cigarette users consistently show that a large majority of users are able to substitute the electronic cigarette for all of their smoked cigarettes.
|Survey #||# Subjects||Quit Rate|
|Heavner K, et al. Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) as potential tobacco harm reduction products: Results of an online survey of ecigarette users, Tobacco Harm Reduction Yearbook 2010.||303||79%|
|Etter JF. Electronic cigarettes: a survey of users. BMC Public Health 2010, 10:231.||81||63%|
|The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association, online survey of e-cigarette users.||2217||80%|
Here is a summary of the success rates for the three methods of achieving smoking abstinence:
|NRT||Best Case: 10-15%|
As directed: 2-7%
If the WHO FCTC succeeds in pushing electronic cigarettes and smokeless products such as Swedish snus off the market, they will have succeeded in making a significant contribution to the death of millions of smokers who could have quit smoking by switching to a safer source of nicotine.