E-cigarettes may help pregnant women quit smoking more effectively compared to nicotine patches, a study has found.
In a study of 1,140 pregnant woman , National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), The University of New South Wales and Queen Mary University of London scientists found that those people who used e-cigarettes had a quitting rate of 6.8 per cent, compared to half that – 3.6 per cent – from the nicotine patch group.
“The rates of quitting were similar in both nicotine patches and e-cigarettes, though in one analysis the e-cigarettes did slightly better,” NDARC health behaviour expert Professor Hayden McRobbie said.
But Curtin University respiratory health specialist Alexander Larcombe said some nicotine free e-cigarettes are filled with substances known to cause respiratory issues that could injure foetuses.
“There is very little research on the health impacts of several of the ingredients in e-liquids, and while some may be safe to ingest, they would not be safe to inhale long term.”
“In my own research of 65 over-the-counter nicotine free e-liquids, nine per cent of them had nicotine present in them,” Prof Larcombe said.
Prof McRobbie said that in his study, the safety profile was found to be similar with both products, but having a low birthweight baby was less frequent with mothers who used e-cigarettes.
“Nicotine free refillable e-cigarettes act as a non-poisonous method to deliver that smoking satisfaction in the form of flavourings in an aerosol, without the harm of nicotine,” Prof McRobbie said.
The study was funded by the National Institute of Health Research.
Professor McRobbie said flavoured e-cigarettes engaged the taste-related region in the brain while suppressed the neural circuit engaged during nicotine exposure.
However, government health officials have warned that e-cigarettes are not safe.
“E-cigarettes do not produce the tar produced by conventional cigarettes which is the main cause of lung cancer. However, many scientists are concerned that using e-cigarettes could increase risk of lung disease, heart disease and cancer,” the Federal Health Department says on its website.
The research also found that cost to participants was higher for e-cigarettes, despite pregnant women being strongly disadvantaged socioeconomically.