FPIN's Help Desk Answers

Electronic Cigarettes for Smoking Cessation


Am Fam Physician. 2016 Mar 15;93(6):492.

Clinical Question

Are electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) effective for smoking cessation in adults?

Evidence-Based Answer

Nicotine-containing e-cigarettes may be more effective than placebo devices for smoking cessation. They may also aid in smoking reduction, but the quality of available evidence is low. (Strength of Recommendation [SOR]: B, based on a systematic review.) Little is known about their safety.

A systematic review pooled two randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and found six-month quit rates of 9% for e-cigarettes compared with 4% for placebo (N = 662; relative risk [RR] = 2.29; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.05 to 4.96).1 The number of participants who reported reducing their cigarette consumption by at least 50% was 36% in the nicotine-containing e-cigarette group compared with 27% in the placebo group (N = 612; RR = 1.31; 95% CI, 1.02 to

Address correspondence to Kristin Bond, MD, at kristinlbond@gmail.com. Reprints are not available from the authors.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.


show all references

1. McRobbie H, et al. Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation and reduction. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(12):CD010216....

2. Bullen C, et al. Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation. Lancet. 2013;382(9905):1629–1637.

3. Caponnetto P, et al. EffiCiency and Safety of an eLectronic cigAreTte (ECLAT) as tobacco cigarettes substitute. PLoS One. 2013;8(6):e66317.

4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Warning letters issued to e-cigarette companies illegally making FDA-related claims. http://www.fda.gov/tobaccoproducts/newsevents/ucm442497.htm. Accessed January 16, 2016.

Help Desk Answers provides answers to questions submitted by practicing family physicians to the Family Physicians Inquiries Network (FPIN). Members of the network select questions based on their relevance to family medicine. Answers are drawn from an approved set of evidence-based resources and undergo peer review.

The complete database of evidence-based questions and answers is copyrighted by FPIN. If interested in submitting questions or writing answers for this series, go to http://www.fpin.org or e-mail: questions@fpin.org.

This series is coordinated by John E. Delzell, Jr., MD, MSPH, Assistant Medical Editor.


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