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Research Shows Prescription Drugs Alone Not Enough To Help Smokers Quit Research Shows Prescription Drugs Alone Not Enough To Help Smokers Quit

Researchers found that vaping may be vital in making other smoking cessation tools more effective

Prescription drugs are becoming more and more prevalent as a smoking cessation tool. However, a study out of the University of California at San Diego’s School of Medicine has found that the real effectiveness of these drugs is not living up to what the clinical trials found. This study poses that the success of these prescription drug cessation tools is reliant on how other cessation tools and strategies are implemented alongside the drugs.

While 34% of smokers working to quit are taking prescription drugs as a smoking cessation aid, those who use these prescriptions as their only method of cessation have a much smaller likeliness of getting positive results. In fact, real-world results are at half the percentage of success of the clinical trials of these medications. Dr. Eric Leas, the lead researcher of the team from UC San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center said ”The results of randomized trials that tested these interventional drugs showed the promise of doubling cessation rates, but that has not translated into the real world.”

UC San Diego Study

The study by the University of California team was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. For this study they tested the efficacy of the three most popular smoking cessation prescription. These were varenicline, bupropion, and high strength nicotine patches. Data was gathered in a census-type survey, the Current Population Survey- Tobacco Use Supplement. The data gathered was from smokers 18 years and older. The goal of the survey is to strive to better understand tobacco products and their effect across the country. Researchers sorted, or matched, people into groups based on specific factors that may have positive or negative impacts, such as how many cigarettes that individual smoked on a regular basis.

The reasoning behind matching is to limit any bias that might occur during testing. However even with this matching system in place Dr. Leas and the team was unable to find results that matched with the randomized clinical trials. One of the factors that seemed to have a positive influence on users of the prescriptions was over the phone behavioral counseling. Many states, like California and New York, offer free over the phone counseling services for smokers working through quitting, these services are rarely sought out by smokers, but Dr. Leas and the team highly recommend them. More accurately they suggest any sort program which helps smokers keep track of, and support them in, the overall process is highly beneficial to smokers who are using these prescriptions. That extra bit of help makes a big difference in the results.

Regarding this behavioral counseling the most senior member of the team, Dr. John Pierce, said this: “Evidence is pointing to an important role of behavioral counseling when prescribing pharmaceutical aids. If the products were approved with counseling, we may have better success rates. As it is, less than 2 percent of smokers who use a pharmaceutical aid are using any behavioral counseling. In both of these longitudinal studies, this was a recipe for relapse to smoking.”

Impact Of Vaping

With many studies and scientists backing it, vaping has continued to grow in popularity as a smoking cessation tool. Many respected institutions, like Public Health England (The UK’s federal public health agency), have supported vaping and e-cigarettes as very effective harm reduction tools. Despite a poor reputation in the public media, vaping has increasingly been made an option for smokers. On its own, vaping has proven to be one of the best smoking cessation tools available. If vaporizers and e-cigarettes were used more frequently in conjunction with prescription drugs it could prove to be one of, if not the most effective pair of cessation tools on the market.

Findings from a study done at the University of Louisville showed that quitting by using e-cigarettes is easier and more effective than pharmaceutical therapies, smokeless tobacco, support of friends and family, and going cold turkey. They found a significant improvement of the success rate among participants who used e-cigarettes. If more research and studies continue to support these claims, it could mean non-nicotine e-liquids would be ripe for becoming the leading option for supporting prescription cessation tools.


Vaping could truly be the key to assisting prescription nicotine replacement therapies. For that to happen though, vaping as a whole needs to be seen as more acceptable to the public at large. Many people, due to misinformation, believe vaping to be just as harmful as smoking. Given all of the research and facts coming out about vaping and its excellent ability as a cessation tool, it’s imperative that these misconceptions are overcome. The BPR, British Psychological Society, updated their policies on vaping, reflecting a change in understanding about vaping. They identified specific psychological cues shared between smoking traditional cigarettes and vaping as a significant factor of why vaping is so useful as a cessation method. These cues include things like bringing your hand to your face or producing clouds.

If this research is correct then vaping would be an excellent tool to be paired with prescription cessation, which is completely void of these same habitual cues. It is essential for public health at large, as well as the quality of life for individuals who are trying to quit smoking that vaporizers and e-cigarettes get an improved public perception. It could make all the difference in the world.

If you ever used prescription quit aids, did you feel like they did their job alone? Do you think it’s fair to consider vaping a legitimate way to support prescription drugs? What about vaping makes it so viable do you think? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.

Dustin Erickson

Dustin Erickson - ECR.net Editor

Dustin can lay claim as one the first e-cigarette reviewers on the internet. Back in the summer of 2009 he set out on a mission to spread the word about e-cigs with this very site. Nearly 2.5 Million visitors, 1,700 Reviews collected and 5 years later, he’s still as passionate as ever and one of the leading Vaping advocates online.