Vaping better at helping pregnant women quit smoking than nicotine patches, study says

LONDON — Could vaping actually benefit certain women looking to have a child? A new study finds that e-cigarettes, or vapes, are more effective at helping pregnant women quit smoking compared to using nicotine patches. Led by scientists at Queen Mary University in London, researchers also suggest that smoking traditional cigarettes instead of e-cigarettes could raise the risk of delivering an underweight child — a condition associated with future health complications.

Currently, most smoking cessation services recommend nicotine patches for expecting mothers who smoke. However, the study found both e-cigarettes and patches to be similarly safe. The significant difference was a lower incidence of low birthweight babies (below 2,500 grams) among e-cigarette users compared to the patch users.

The researchers believe that this outcome may be because e-cigarettes were more successful in helping women quit smoking altogether. By the end of their pregnancies, nearly twice as many women reported quitting smoking using e-cigarettes compared to those using nicotine patches.

Pregnant woman showing her bump
When the researchers looked at successful quitters who only used the treatment they were allocated, almost twice as many women quit with e-cigarettes than with nicotine patches.
(Photo by Ömürden Cengiz on Unsplash)

Interestingly, some women chose to quit smoking using products that the scientists had not assigned. In most of these cases, the women had been offered patches but sought out e-cigarettes independently.

“E-cigarettes seem more effective than nicotine patches in helping pregnant women to quit smoking and because of this, they seem to also lead to better pregnancy outcomes,” says Professor Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University in a media release. “The evidence-based advice to smokers already includes, among other options, a recommendation to switch from smoking to e-cigarettes. Such a recommendation can now be extended to smokers who are pregnant as well.”

The impact of nicotine on infants remains uncertain. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) posits that the primary health risks are caused by cigarette toxins other than nicotine. Consequently, this public health group recommends behavioral support and nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches, gum, and mouth spray.

A unique advantage of e-cigarettes over gum and patches is that expecting mothers can choose their preferred strength and flavor, which may ease the transition to a smoke-free lifestyle, according to the team.

The researchers surmise that the variety of choices available with e-cigarettes might explain why they have previously been found to be a more effective nicotine replacement therapy for non-pregnant individuals.

The study is published in the NIHR Journals Library.

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South West News Service writer Pol Allingham contributed to this report.

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