With the introduction of e-cigarettes and their ever-expanding popularity the medical community is constantly looking for answers on a question that has been keeping scientist busy for the last few years ‘What are the benefits of electronic cigarettes?’

Quit smoking A recent and considerable study in England has found that smokers trying to quit were substantially more likely to succeed if they used e-cigarettes than alternative therapies such as nicotine patches or gum. These results offered promising but not conclusive evidence in the constant debate about the risks and benefits of these increasingly popular vaping accessories.

Scientist interviewed almost 6,000 smokers who had tried to quit by themselves, without any form of counseling from a health professional. About twenty percent of those who said they were using e-cigarettes had stopped smoking at the time of the survey, compared with about ten percent of people who had used patches and gum.

‘This will not settle the e-cigarette issue by any means,’ said Thomas J. Glynn, a researcher at the American Cancer Society, who was not part of the study, ‘but it is further evidence that, in a real-world context, e-cigarettes can be a useful, although not revolutionary, tool in helping some smokers to stop.’

E-cigarettes gained a lot of popularity in early 2000 and became an alternative to tobacco smoking, producing a nicotine-rich vapor that does not have the thousands of toxins and carcinogens that make their tobacco counterparts hazardous to human health.

‘E-cigarettes could substantially improve public health because of their widespread appeal and the huge health gains associated with stopping smoking,’ declared Prof. Robert West of University College London’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, senior author of the study in a press release.

‘However, we should also recognize that the strongest evidence remains for use of the NHS stop-smoking services. These almost triple a smoker’s odds of successfully quitting compared with going it alone or relying on over-the-counter products’ he added.

As close to 42 million Americans smoke, and some 480,000 people die each year from smoking-related illnesses, one of the United States’ leading causes of preventable death. The central question is whether e-cigarettes will cause the ranks of smokers to shrink or swell.

Another clinical survey in New Zealand, which many scientist regard as the most dependable study to date, found that people given ecigs had only a slightly better cessation rate than those using nicotine patches. While the long-term health effects of these devices are still unknown, many health experts believe that the concentrations of toxins in the vapor are much lower than in tobacco smoke.

Prof. Robert West, director of tobacco studies at University College London thinks that about 5,000 lives could be saved for every million smokers who make the switch to electronic cigarettes, even if the devices carried significant health risks and people used them indefinitely after quitting real cigarettes.