A new trial from the University of East Anglia will see smokers attending hospital emergency departments given e-cigarette starter packs to help them quit.
The initiative comes as a Cochrane Review - the international gold standard for high quality, trusted health information - about vaping is updated today.
The review, led by the University of Oxford and involving the UEA team, shows how nicotine electronic cigarettes could increase the number of people who stop smoking compared to nicotine replacement therapy – such as chewing gum and patches – and compared to electronic cigarettes that do not contain nicotine.
The new trial will offer stop smoking advice and an e-cigarette ‘starter pack’ to patients attending hospital emergency departments for any reason, to try to encourage and support them to quit smoking – even for those who might not have considered it before.
The new trial is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and will be run by the Norwich Clinical Trials Unit at UEA.
Prof Caitlin Notley, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Many people who smoke want to quit, but find it difficult to succeed in the long term.
“Electronic cigarettes mimic the experience of cigarette smoking because they are hand-held and generate a smoke-like vapour when used. They can be an attractive option for helping people switch from smoking, even if they have tried and failed in the past.
“We know that they are much less harmful than smoking tobacco, and that they have been shown to help smokers quit.”
Trial co-lead Dr Ian Pope, also from UEA’s Norwich Medical School and an emergency physician, said: “Emergency Departments in England see over 24 million people each year of whom around a quarter are current smokers.
“Attending the Emergency Department offers a valuable opportunity for people to be supported to quit smoking, which will improve their chances of recovery from whatever has brought them to hospital, and also prevent future illness.”
The study will run over 30 months across five hospitals in England and Scotland – at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the Royal London Hospital and Homerton University Hospital in London, Leicester Royal Infirmary and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.
Smokers who agree to take part will be randomly assigned to receive either smoking advice during their emergency department wait, an e-cigarette starter pack and referral to local stop smoking services, or just written information about locally available stop smoking services.
Both groups of patients will be asked if they are still smoking one, three and six months after they attended hospital.
The research team hope to eventually recruit around 1,000 smokers to the trial.
Prof Notley said: “We’ll be looking at the number of people who successfully quit smoking across both groups, to see which intervention works best. We’ll also work out how much it would cost to roll the scheme out nationally,” she added.
‘Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation (Review)’ is published by the Cochrane Library on April 29, 2021.