In the UK alone, over 120,000 people die of diseases directly caused by smoking each and every year. This accounts for roughly 18% of all deaths in the country; almost one in five. And while these numbers might be tough to relate to, the dangers are real - the numbers of smokers are not declining as rapidly as they need to and the added strain on the NHS equates to roughly £5 billion annually. Therefore, both individual smokers and the state are looking for new ways to help smokers quit, and e-cigarettes are proving themselves to be the front-runner in the debate.
For many, quitting smoking is one of the biggest challenges they will ever come up against. With the British Medical Journal's recent findings showing that every cigarette costs smokers roughly eleven minutes of life, the challenge is a worthy one, however.
On average, smokers in the UK smoke eleven cigarettes a day . If we apply that to the model confirmed by the BMJ, then, we see that smokers lose around two hours per day, or roughly thirty days a year. Conversely, when applied to ex-smokers, the maths show a more positive outcome: Every twelve years, non-smokers can extend their life expectancy by one year.
How E-Cigarettes Help Smokers Quit
To help extend life-expectancy as much as possible, e-cigarettes are an effective and user-friendly method of quitting that have been shown to work in practical application. In fact, a recent study in the USA confirmed the efficacy of e-cigarettes in treating patients trying to quit smoking. The study, which surveyed almost 6,000 participants, saw a success rate that was 20% higher in patients quitting with e-cigarettes than those who used nicotine patches or gum. And while this evidence might seem cursory, the fact is, there is no better substitute for the act of smoking than e-cigarettes - and it's the act of smoking that's often one of the most difficult things to give up.
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Aside from the psychological benefits of quitting, though, due to the large variety of e-liquid flavours currently available on the market, smelling of stale smoke is no longer an issue. As well, e-cigarettes provide a completely different method of nicotine administration, which has been branded by the NHS as 95% safer than traditional cigarettes and test results prove that e-cigarettes lack 'the many dangerous chemicals that can increase the risk of lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke.' In light of this, Public Health England recommends that e-cigarettes be made available on the NHS for smokers trying to live a smoke-free life.
What is clear from trials, however, is that a specific pattern must be followed for patients to have success quitting with e-cigarettes. Tests show that when users completely replace their smoking habits with e-smoking and slowly reduce nicotine quantity over time, the success rates are three times higher than when people try the 'cold turkey' method. To quit effectively, doses must be regulated, controlled and consistently followed, with the NHS' own trials show that "people who use e-cigarettes too little or too rarely have less success at quitting smoking".
Patients should still bear in mind that the long-term effects of smoking e-cigarettes are still largely unknown. Naturally, as the products themselves are relatively new, no comprehensive, life-long study of e-smokers has ever been carried out and scientists can do little more than predict long-term side-effects. Public Health England did state, though, that, "At the moment, 80,000 people [in England] die every year as a result of cigarette smoking. If everybody who was smoking switched to e-cigarettes that would reduce to about 4,000 deaths a year". Therefore, despite the lack of sufficient evidence to reassure long-term users, e-cigarettes are set to become one of the primary methods to facilitate quitting in the future. And that's a positive for everybody.