Can e-cigarettes help you quit smoking tobacco?

Photo of a young man smoking

E-cigarettes can help you quit smoking tobacco. But most people are still using e-cigarettes one year later. Nicotine replacement therapy or medication are more likely to help you to completely stop smoking.

Most of the harmful substances inhaled (breathed in) when smoking cigarettes come from burning the tobacco. E-cigarettes don't contain any tobacco – but most of them have nicotine. It is in the liquid that is heated up and inhaled as vapor. That is much less harmful than inhaling tobacco smoke.

A group of scientists from the analyzed how well e-cigarettes help people to quit smoking tobacco. They included studies that looked at

  • whether e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking,
  • whether e-cigarettes with nicotine are more helpful than e-cigarettes without nicotine, and
  • how effective e-cigarettes with nicotine are compared to nicotine replacement therapy.

The participants were allowed to use the e-cigarettes whenever they wanted to. They were provided with the cartridges and the liquid. Some studies offered additional support such as telephone counseling.

E-cigarettes with or without nicotine

Ten studies with around 4,000 participants compared e-cigarettes with nicotine for their effectiveness in quitting smoking, either with a group that used e-cigarettes without nicotine or with a group that weren’t given any e-cigarettes. A review was carried out after 6 to 12 months to see if the participants succeeded in no longer smoking tobacco. The studies showed that

  • more people who used e-cigarettes quit smoking tobacco than those who didn't, and that
  • e-cigarettes with nicotine helped more with quitting smoking tobacco than e-cigarettes without nicotine.

E-cigarettes compared to nicotine replacement therapy

Four studies with almost 2,000 people who smoked compared nicotine replacement therapy with e-cigarettes with nicotine. The participants were allowed to choose the type of nicotine replacement therapy themselves. After 6 to 12 months, the overall results of the studies were:

  • 10 out of 100 people managed to no longer smoke tobacco with nicotine replacement therapy.
  • 15 out of 100 people who used e-cigarettes with nicotine succeeded in quitting smoking tobacco.

So, e-cigarettes helped 5 out of 100 people more to quite tobacco cigarettes or similar smoking articles than nicotine replacement therapy.

Almost all study participants who succeeded in giving up tobacco were still using e-cigarettes after one year. They often still used liquids that contained nicotine. But they did reduce the amount of nicotine they used over the year.

Good to know:

Almost all participants who successfully quit smoking with nicotine replacement therapy managed without any nicotine at all after one year. Most people who used e-cigarettes to quit smoking tobacco were still using them after one year – often with nicotine.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Pneumologie und Beatmungsmedizin (DGP). Empfehlungen zum Umgang mit der elektronischen Zigarette (E-Zigarette). 2022.

Hartmann-Boyce J, McRobbie H, Lindson N et al. Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2021; (4): CD010216.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Created on September 7, 2022

Next planned update: 2025


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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