The 2011 E-Cig Smoking Cessation Pilot Study

Klaus Kneale
by Klaus Kneale
December 6, 2012

The first electronic cigarettes came to market in China back in 2004.  By 2008, they had broken into most international markets.  In that time, they were toted largely as quitting aids and misleadingly as harmless nicotine delivery devices (it would ultimately be determined that they do cause some harm but far less than conventional cigarettes).  It wasn’t until 2011 that the first serious study into their success as smoking cessation devices was tested.

The study was done at the University of Catania (Italy), headed by the director of its Institute for Internal Medicine and Clinical Immunology.  Riccardo Polosa had previously focused on asthma and COPD and eventually found himself looking into nicotine addiction.  Electronic cigarettes appeared to hit the positive aspects of harm reduction without affecting public health, so Polosa organized a 6-month pilot study to investigate the devices.

The study took a rather surprising approach.  It went after individuals that declined smoking cessation assistance–looking for those that were unrepentant smokers least likely to reduce smoking or quit entirely simply because they wanted to.  Individuals over the age of 60, suffering hypertension, major depression, asthma, or other major health concerns were weeded out.  The result was 40 candidates that smoked an average of 25 cigarettes a day, had no plans to quit, and no major health issue forcing them to quit.

By the end of the 24 week process, 27 subjects remained.  More than 80% had cut their smoking down to less than half or quit altogether.  Assuming electronic cigarettes were in fact less harmful than conventional tobacco cigarettes, this meant harm reduction could work.  This pilot study proved promising enough that further research into electronic cigarettes as smoking cessation devices is now being conducted.

Success!  Even with a crowd totally unwilling to receive assistance with smoking cessation, electronic cigarettes proved they could be a very powerful tool.

The Results

The study began with 66 subjects.  Fourteen subjects were found ineligible because they requested smoking cessation assistance.    Another 12 were removed from the study for various health related reasons including hypertension, depression, asthma, a recent case of myocardial infarction, and 2 cases of moderate oldness.

All subjects were age 18-60 that had smoked at least 15 factory-made cigarettes a day for 10 years.  They were not currently nor were they planning within the next 30 days to be attempting to quit smoking.  Subjects also didn’t have a history of alcohol abuse, illicit drug use, or psychiatric conditions.

Read the complete study here.

The subjects were given electronic cigarettes and instructed in their basic use.  They then returned for follow ups at 4 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 24 weeks.  Some subjects failed to follow up at each of the intervals and were removed from the study.  At the 24th week follow-up, 27 subjects remained.

The final results were quite promising.  Twenty-two subjects (81% of the 27) had reduced their smoking by 50% or more up to 100% (meaning they had quit entirely).  Thirteen subjects of the 22 continued smoking, though 5 of them had cut down by 80% or more.  Even among the remaining 5 cessation failures, smoking of tobacco cigarettes declined.

Nine subjects had quit smoking entirely.  Six of them continued using electronic cigarettes while the other 3 weren’t even using e-cigs.

According to Polosa, the e-cigs used in this study did have some mechanical problems and were already somewhat outdated by newer electronic cigarette technology on the market.  So these numbers look even more promising considering better products were already available.

Current smoking intervention methods slightly improve the chances of success for an individual that wants to quit.  Polosa concludes that electronic cigarettes may create a larger intervention market for individuals that don’t intend on quitting and individuals that have quit but fear returning to the addiction.

See a full listing of e-cigarette research to date


21 Responses to “The 2011 E-Cig Smoking Cessation Pilot Study”

      MorrinB on December 6th, 2012 7:52 pm

      That is a very interesting study. Not very surprising results though. Excellent!

        John on December 6th, 2012 8:06 pm

        Love all these studies and stats and stuff. Quite informative and glad to see such research is always being done. People will get the idea eventually

          Johnathan Brown on December 6th, 2012 8:11 pm

          I can completely see eye to eye with this. When i switched to electronic cigarettes, i had no intent of actually quitting using nicotine. I was looking for a cheaper, safer alternative. However, with that being said, I’m confident if i WANTED to quit using nicotine, i could easily at almost any time. The reason i say this, is instead of feigning for nicotine ever 30-45 minutes, i can go HOURS on HOURS with out a vape if i need too, with no cravings at all. Love it!

            Pearl McLaughlin (moxie) on December 6th, 2012 10:49 pm

            I hope that this will encourage a study here in the US and I also hope that the smoking cessation programs would use electronic cigarettes, reduction of harm is better than a cigarette! I would not have been able to give up my 40 year habit without them. My doctor is all for it and she was actually very encouraging. But because there are no studies done on the harm of ecigarettes, she cannot refer her patients to try them.

              slap_maxwell on December 7th, 2012 7:47 am

              I agree with Mr. Butler…there are times when I realize I’ve gone hours without a vape; when before, I’d always be on top of when it was time to grab another smoke.

              I’m already planning on moving down to 12 mg/ml at my two year mark of vaping…I started at 24. If and when I decide to go down to 6 mg or even 0, I don’t think it will be anywhere near a big issue.

                chad on December 7th, 2012 9:09 am

                I started vaping instead of going back to cigs. Already dropped my nic to 16 from 24.

                  Karla Lyle (MsV8PR) on December 7th, 2012 12:15 pm

                  I think the results would be even better had they done it on people who were actively trying to quit. I think it does take a little determination but it can be done. I never thought it would wark but here I am a year later smoke free.

                    Amanda on December 7th, 2012 1:18 pm

                    That is a good study, I like that.

                      Amanda on December 7th, 2012 1:18 pm

                      I could never vape a high nic level though

                        robovape on December 7th, 2012 4:20 pm

                        Polosa’s selection of a population that had no reason to quit smoking is key to this… if it works for people who aren’t even trying to quit it’s a great tool…

                          Steve Mitchell on December 7th, 2012 4:55 pm

                          great news for the e-cig industry

                            Sabrina Mitchell on December 7th, 2012 5:34 pm

                            The more studies the better. I am sure they will find it way better than smoking.

                              Randall on December 8th, 2012 1:00 pm

                              Press Release – Observation of electronic cigarette use in France, 5 December 2012

                              The use of electronic cigarettes lead to a substantial reduction in tobacco addiction
                              in 72% of smokers, according to the first study of this device conducted in France

                              The Respiratory Diseases Departmental Committee (Comité Départemental contre les Maladies Respiratoires) of Dordogne (France) has decided to observe the use of electronic cigarettes, in collaboration with the Périgueux Health Examinations Centre. This is the first study of this scope to be published in France.

                              One hundred smokers declaring that they had no wish to stop smoking in the immediate future agreed to use a lower-range electronic cigarette for a period of three months. They were asked to use this in the place of normal cigarettes, possibly alternating the two. Of the hundred volunteers, 74 respected the study protocol over the three-month period. Of the 74 participants 53 (72%) significantly reduced their cigarette smoking, and 8 (11%) stopped smoking completely. The remaining volunteers declared that they had reduced smoking by less than 50%.

                              The electronic cigarette was well accepted, by the participants but also by those around them, family, work colleagues or general public. Two thirds of the electronic smokers noted positive effects on their health; 15% pointed out discomfort (irritation of the mouth, lips or throat). A six-month appraisal is underway.

                              Though this first French observation was conducted with limited means, it confirms the potential of the electronic cigarette in protecting the health of smokers, whether or not they contemplate giving up smoking.

                              « One cannot recognize that smoking is the first cause of avoidable deaths, and yet not make any study of the electronic cigarette, which meets the approval of millions of users worried about their health » declared Dr Jacques Granger, President of the Respiratory Diseases Departmental Committee of Dordogne. This observation carried out on one hundred electronic cigarette smokers calls for other more detailed studies. There is a clear improvement over three months in the state of health of those who took part, without any serious side-effects, and there is no lack of volunteers.

                                robovape on December 8th, 2012 6:05 pm

                                i’m curious about the 13 subjects who didn’t complete the study…

                                  Mike on December 9th, 2012 3:05 am

                                  As am I

                                    saboinia on December 9th, 2012 11:06 pm

                                    agreed it would be good to find out what happened to the others

                                      nicxvapor on December 12th, 2012 2:36 am

                                      I’m very pleased to see the numbers here. These studies are a great step in the right direction. While I wonder about the subjects that dropped out I will recognize that life happens and gets in the way at times. With so much promise I look forward to seeing the expanded results of further studies.

                                        Adam on December 29th, 2012 4:32 pm

                                        I am a geek for these types of studies. However I feel the powers the be in media and the political arena will continue to sweep studies like this under the rug. Much like Nixon with pot. Sad.

                                          unclerj on January 6th, 2013 10:18 pm

                                          I am loving this study!

                                          Seems to be well planned and executed as well!

                                          But I also agree that these studies will probably be swept under the rug either out of ignorance or by greed.

                                          IE payoffs from tobacco companies.

                                          Lets face it, with the innovation of E-Cigs and the common knowledge that smoking = health problems/death big tobacco is on the down-slide.

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