Vaping "as Safe as" Nicotine Patches for Pregnant Smokers

Vaping "as Safe as" Nicotine Patches for Pregnant Smokers

Vaping is as safe as nicotine patches for pregnant women wanting to switch from cigarettes and could be "more effective" according to new medical research.

The study has found that pregnant smokers were more likely to make a better transition away from smoking when using e-cigarettes than patches after four weeks.

The UK research, which involved 1,140 smokers who were around 15.7 weeks pregnant and smoked an average of 10 cigarettes a day, also revealed that:

"vaping did not pose any greater risk to mothers or babies during pregnancy than other nicotine replacement methods"

The study published in Nature Medicine magazine is one of the first to look at the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes amongst women who are pregnant.

It comes as Dr. Francesca Pesola, the author of the research at Queen Mary University of London, noted, according to Britain's The Guardian newspaper, that:

"there has been little research into their [e-cigarettes] effectiveness or safety among pregnant women, despite an increase in use by expectant mothers"

Not only does smoking pose a string of potential medical problems during pregnancy including miscarriage, premature birth, and low birth weight, it can be extremely hard to give up.

 

Nicotine patches which are commonly offered by doctors to help pregnant women to stop smoking are not always effective, according to the report, and more pregnant women seem to be turning to e-cigarettes as an alternative.

Dr. Pesola in The Guardian explained:

"Many pregnant smokers find it difficult to quit with current stop smoking medications including nicotine patches and continue to smoke throughout pregnancy."

He added there was an "urgent" need to study the effect of e-cigarettes on pregnant women with smoking also more prevalent in poorer areas.

The study, which was also reported in the well-respected New Scientist magazine, added:

"Smoking in pregnancy increases the risk of adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight, placental abruption, preterm birth, miscarriage and neonatal or sudden infant death..."

"The need to identify stop-smoking interventions that help pregnant women who smoke is made even more urgent by the fact that the link between smoking and socioeconomic disadvantage is particularly strong in women who are pregnant."

In the trial, the test group was randomly split into two, with one group of 571 women given nicotine patches and the remaining 569 given e-cigarettes.

 

Of those, 40% given e-cigarettes and 23% given patches used their allocated product for at least four weeks, with both uptake and duration of use during the study higher among those vaping.

Four weeks into their attempt to stop smoking, 15.4% of those given e-cigarettes self-reported they were not smoking, compared with 8.6% of those given patches, while 19.8% of the e-cigarette group self-reported abstinence at the end of pregnancy compared with 9.7% in the group given patches.

The e-cigarette group's slightly better transition rate at the end of pregnancy was also due to some of the patch users reporting they'd switched to e-cigarettes instead.

The research team also found that while the average birth weight of the babies was similar, low birth weights were more common in the patch group.

The report said:

"Birth outcomes and adverse effects in women were similar in the two groups, apart from low birth-weight (babies born weighing under 2.5kg), which was less frequent in the e-cigarette group (9.8% vs 14.8%), most likely because women in the e-cigarettes group smoked less."

Currently, two stop-smoking medications are offered to pregnant women - nicotine replacement treatments such as nicotine chewing gum or patches, and bupropion an antidepressant.

The current nicotine replacement methods were shown to have only limited effects, while bupropion had none, according to the medical report.

 

Professor Hajek's concluded e-cigarettes should be adopted in stop-smoking services for pregnant women as well.

Professor Peter Hajek, Director of the Health and Lifestyle Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London, said:

"While it is best for pregnant smokers to stop smoking without continuing to use nicotine, if this is difficult, e-cigarettes can help smokers quit and are as safe as nicotine patches. Many stop smoking services are already using e-cigarettes as an option for smokers generally. Such use can now be adopted in stop-smoking services for pregnant women as well."

Sources:

Nature Magazine https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-022-01808-0
The Guardian
New Scientist

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