E-cigarettes are as safe to use as nicotine patches for pregnant women trying to quit smoking, and may be a more effective tool, researchers have found.
Smoking during pregnancy can increase the risk of outcomes such as premature birth, miscarriage and low birth weight baby. But crushing the habit can be a struggle.
“Many pregnant smokers have difficulty quitting with current smoking cessation medications, including nicotine patches, and continue to smoke throughout pregnancy,” said Dr. Francesca Pesola, author of the new study based at Queen Mary University of London.
While e-cigarettes have been shown to be more effective than nicotine patches in helping people quit smoking, Pesola noted that there has been little research on their effectiveness or safety in pregnant women, despite an increase in their use by pregnant women.
Writing in the journal Nature Medicine, Pesola and colleagues describe how they randomly assigned 569 pregnant smokers to use e-cigarettes and 571 to use nicotine patches – a form of nicotine replacement therapy that can already be prescribed during pregnancy. The participants were on average 15.7 weeks pregnant and smoked 10 cigarettes a day.
Only 40% of those who received e-cigarettes and 23% of those who received patches used their assigned product for at least four weeks. However, absorption and duration of use during the study were higher in people who received e-cigarettes.
After excluding participants who said they did not smoke but used nicotine products other than those assigned to them – for example those who received patches and who used e-cigarettes – the team found that those who received e-cigarettes seemed to be more successful in quitting smoking.
Four weeks into their quit attempt, 15.4% of people who received e-cigarettes reported not smoking, compared to 8.6% of those who received patches, while 19.8% in the e-cigarette group said they abstained at the end of pregnancy. compared to 9.7% in the group that received patches.
Only a small number of participants provided saliva samples to confirm smoking abstinence at the end of pregnancy, but once those using unallocated products were excluded, the team found higher abstinence rates in the group of e-cigarettes.
Additionally, the team found that rates of adverse events were similar between those who received cigarettes and those who received patches. Also, while the babies’ mean birth weights were similar, low birth weights were more common in the patch group.
However, the study has limitations, including low compliance and the fact that the e-cigarettes used in the study differ from modern pod devices.
The authors add that given the remaining questions about the potential risks of nicotine during pregnancy, it is best for pregnant women to quit smoking without using nicotine-containing products.
“We only recommend the use of nicotine for smokers who wish to quit their regular cigarettes,” Pesola said.
But, she added: “Using an e-cigarette poses no more risk to mother or baby than nicotine patches, both of which are better options than continuing to smoke. throughout pregnancy.