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We included 56 completed studies, representing 12,804 participants, of which 29 were RCTs. Six of the 56 included studies were new to this review update. Of the included studies, we rated five (all contributing to our main comparisons) at low risk of bias overall, 42 at high risk overall (including the 25 non-randomized studies), and the remainder at unclear risk. There was moderate-certainty evidence, limited by imprecision, that quit rates were higher in people randomized to nicotine EC than in those randomized to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) (risk ratio (RR) 1.69, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.25 to 2.27; I2 = 0%; 3 studies, 1498 participants). In absolute terms, this might translate to an additional four successful quitters per 100 (95% CI 2 to 8). There was low-certainty evidence (limited by very serious imprecision) that the rate of occurrence of AEs was similar) (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.80 to 1.19; I2 = 0%; 2 studies, 485 participants). SAEs occurred rarely, with no evidence that their frequency differed between nicotine EC and NRT, but very serious imprecision led to low certainty in this finding (RR 1.37, 95% CI 0.77 to 2.41: I2 = n/a; 2 studies, 727 participants). There was moderate-certainty evidence, again limited by imprecision, that quit rates were higher in people randomized to nicotine EC than to non-nicotine EC (RR 1.70, 95% CI 1.03 to 2.81; I2 = 0%; 4 studies, 1057 participants). In absolute terms, this might again lead to an additional four successful quitters per 100 (95% CI 0 to 11). These trials mainly used older EC with relatively low nicotine delivery. There was moderate-certainty evidence of no difference in the rate of AEs between these groups (RR 1.01, 95% CI 0.91 to 1.11; I2 = 0%; 3 studies, 601 participants). There was insufficient evidence to determine whether rates of SAEs differed between groups, due to very serious imprecision (RR 0.60, 95% CI 0.15 to 2.44; I2 = n/a; 4 studies, 494 participants). Compared to behavioral support only/no support, quit rates were higher for participants randomized to nicotine EC (RR 2.70, 95% CI 1.39 to 5.26; I2 = 0%; 5 studies, 2561 participants). In absolute terms this represents an increase of seven per 100 (95% CI 2 to 17). However, this finding was of very low certainty, due to issues with imprecision and risk of bias. There was no evidence that the rate of SAEs differed, but some evidence that non-serious AEs were more common in people randomized to nicotine EC (AEs: RR 1.22, 95% CI 1.12 to 1.32; I2 = 41%; 4 studies, 765 participants; SAEs: RR 1.17, 95% CI 0.33 to 4.09; I2 = 5%; 6 studies, 1011 participants). Data from non-randomized studies were consistent with RCT data. The most commonly reported AEs were throat/mouth irritation, headache, cough, and nausea, which tended to dissipate with continued use. Very few studies reported data on other outcomes or comparisons and hence evidence for these is limited, with confidence intervals often encompassing clinically significant harm and benefit.

Original publication






University of Oxford

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