A new analysis of thirteen scientific trials suggests that electronic cigarettes can help smokers reduce their amount of nicotine intake and even quit smoking all together.

E-cigarettes have only been in production since 2006, making the available scientific evidence about their effects still quite sparse, yet they appear less harmful than traditional cigarettes. And if they can help people who want to quit smoking, all the better.

When smoking traditional cigarettes made of cut tobacco leaves, paper, and a host of additives, a toxic chemical melange is created when these ingredients are burned and inhaled. But e-cigarettes work by mixing nicotine with glycerine and propylene glycol, two relatively benign chemicals, then heating the chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled. 

Published by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international medical research organization, the review found that about nine percent of people using electronic cigarettes managed to abstain from smoking for six months, against four percent of those using the placebos.

E-cigarettes also proved more effective in fighting addiction than smoking substitutes like nicotine gums and patches. In one study, sixty-one percent of e-cigarette users were able to cut their consumption by half, compared with only forty-four percent of those using patches.

Researchers hypothesize that e-cigarettes help fight addiction because they mimic the ritual of tobacco smoking: holding a cigarette between the fingers and taking a long, luxuriant puff.

Any help is welcome as smoking remains one of the largest threats to public health and only five percent of those who attempt to quit "cold turkey" will stay smoke-free for more than a year.

Read more at the Economist

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