E-cigarettes aren't the best way to stop smoking

You're better off with behavioral counseling and nicotine-replacement products, Consumer Reports' experts say

Published: March 18, 2014 06:00 AM

Wondering if electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, which deliver an atomized form of nicotine that users call “vapor,” will help you to finally stop smoking? Well, don't count on it: The research is mixed and preliminary. A new study even suggests e-cigarettes may encourage teens to smoke regular cigarettes. If you or a friend or family member is trying to kick a smoking habit, it’s better to stick with the following strategies that have proved to be effective, listed in the order we think you should try them. Under the health care law, new health plans must pay 100 percent of the cost of tobacco-cessation treatment. Coverage details vary, though, so check with your insurer.

Behaviorial counseling

What it is: Individual and group sessions or online and phone support (available free from smokefree.gov and 800-QUIT-NOW).
Effectiveness: Research has found it to be effective for many people.
Consumer Reports says: Most people need counseling, nicotine-replacement products, or both to be successful.

Counseling with a physician

What it is: Advice and encouragement, typically included in the cost of an office visit.
Effectiveness: Increases attempts to quit and use effective medication, which can more than double the success rate.
Consumer Reports says:
Fewer than half of patients receive advice from their doctor about how to quit smoking. If you want it, you may have to ask.

Nicotine-replacement products

What it is: Over-the-counter patches, gums, and lozenges; prescription inhalers, nasal sprays, lozenges, and skin patches.
Effectiveness: Most helpful for the first two to three months of quitting, but
ineffective when used over the long term.
Consumer Reports says: Helps ease initial withdrawal symptoms. Consider using one with smoking-cessation counseling.

Prescription non-nicotine medication

What it is: Bupropion (Wellbutrin SR, Zyban, and generic); nortriptyline (Pamelor and generic); and varenicline (Chantix).
Effectiveness: Bupropion and varenicline seem to be effective. Nortriptyline is not FDA-approved for smoking cessation, but is used off-label and shows a modest benefit.
Consumer Reports says: Bupropion and varenicline can increase suicidal thoughts and attempts in adults. Talk with your doctor about safer alternatives.  

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the April 2014 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.


E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Health News


Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more