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UK scientists research possible ‘placebo effects’ of vaping and e-cigs

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The Cochran Group is a UK-based medical organization which strives to provide healthcare professionals with sound guidance and scientific research. As more and more smoking patients are discovering vaping and e-cigs in recent years, they are also beginning to ask their doctors for help in deciding between which nicotine replacement therapy is best. According to a newly published report, the possible placebo effects of electronic cigarettes are in line with those attributed to more conventional nicotine replacement therapies.

Placebos are used in scientific research all the time. They usually involved substituting some sort of sugar pill for a real medication. The scientists then monitor and evaluate the effects of the sugar pill on members of a control group. The purpose is to attempt to define if the real medication is indeed providing substantive, measurable, physical health benefits or if the real medication is simply tricking the mind into thinking that it actually works.

Overview of the Cochran Group placebo study

The published report entitledCan electronic cigarettes help people stop smoking, and are they safe to use for this purpose? is readily available on the Cochran website. According to the report, the scientists reviewed some 24 different placebo studies from numerous countries, but only two were ultimately chosen.

“There is evidence from two trials that ECs help smokers to stop smoking in the long term compared with placebo ECs…None of the included studies…detected serious adverse events considered possibly related to EC use. The most commonly reported adverse effects were irritation of the mouth and throat.”

Studies from Italy and New Zealand were shown to follow the basic scientific principles that Cochran prefers when conducting research. Specifically, these two studies followed their cumulative 662 smokers for a period lasting longer than six months while conducting “randomized controlled trials.”

What the Cochran team discovered is that electronic cigarettes and vaping devices tend to provide the same sorts of placebo effects of those associated with more conventional nicotine replacement therapies like nicotine gums, lozenges, and patches. The scientists also identified that nicotine-enhanced e-liquids increase the likelihood of quitting smoking long term compared to zero-nicotine e-juices.

While the researchers also document that further research is needed, they also suggest that vaping produces only limited adverse side effects, such as a slight irritation in the mouth or throat. For doctors considering whether to advise their patients to choose vaping as an effective and safe smoking cessation tool, this statement is significant.

In the past, many lesser-quality studies have suggested that e-cig use results in formaldehyde ingestion, popcorn lung, and other potentially negative health effects. While these falsehoods have been ultimately disproven, many medical professionals are still suspicious of recommending vaping to their smoking patients. The Cochran Group suggests these fears may be baseless and that the placebo effects of e-cigs may be highly beneficial. 

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