Quitting smoking: Experts recommend this method

E-cigarettes are a great way to get off nicotine.  The goal should always be to completely stop smoking.

E-cigarettes: They are suitable for getting rid of nicotine. However, the goal should always be complete weaning. (Source: vchal / Getty Images)

Smoking is the most common cause of vascular disease. But the risk of cancer also increases. E-cigarettes can help you quit nicotine addiction.

According to calculations by the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), heavy smoking shortens life by an average of ten years. About a fifth of all cancer cases are caused by nicotine addiction. But heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes or chronic bronchitis can often be traced back to smoking.

On the occasion of World No Tobacco Day on May 31, 2023, the German Society for Vascular Surgery and Vascular Medicine (DGG) advises people to stop smoking. E-cigarettes are often more successful than medication or behavioral therapy.

Smoking is becoming more popular again among younger people

In Germany , according to the bi-monthly survey as part of the “German Smoking Behavior Survey” (DEBRA), the proportion of smokers rose again to almost 35 percent after the second lockdown, especially in younger age groups.

“There can be no talk of a decline in cigarette smoking,” says the director of the Clinic for Vascular and Thoracic Surgery at the Karlsruhe Municipal Hospital, Professor Martin Storck. For many experts, this is no surprise: for years, Germany has been far behind when it comes to tobacco control, government measures to curb smoking, and is currently ranked 34th out of 37 in Europe.

It’s better to vape instead of smoke

Great Britain, on the other hand, is consistently taking new approaches to combat the “blue haze” – only 13 percent of the population there smoked in 2021. The British government is currently giving away free e-cigarettes to one million smokers to encourage them to give up tobacco smoke.

“This measure is unique in the world, but shows the positive assessment of e-cigarettes in other countries,” says DGG expert Storck. Because it’s not the nicotine in cigarettes that kills you. The smoke produced when tobacco is burned is toxic – it promotes cancer and arteriosclerosis , as the German Cancer Research Center states.

“This smoke is not produced when vaping or using tobacco heaters,” says Storck. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has repeatedly determined in laboratory analyzes that up to 95 percent fewer harmful substances can be detected in e-cigarettes than in tobacco smoke.

E-cigarette as a means of quitting smoking

This makes the e-cigarette an effective tool for gently quitting smoking, not only from the perspective of the United Kingdom, but also for the DGG. “Especially since it has now been scientifically shown in various studies that e-cigarettes are more successful in helping people quit smoking than other measures,” emphasizes Storck.

A current Cochrane review comes to the conclusion that e-cigarettes are better than medication or behavioral therapy alone for quitting smoking. A meta-analysis of five randomized controlled studies that recently appeared in the “American Journal of Medicine” points in the same direction. According to this review, e-cigarettes are more effective in smoking cessation than nicotine replacement or behavioral therapy.

The “gateway drug” theory has been refuted

The theory that e-cigarettes could be a gateway drug for young people to smoke tobacco has also been largely debunked. “The current DEBRA data, but also many international studies, refute the so-called gateway theory,” emphasizes DGG expert Storck, who cannot understand the ongoing controversial debate about e-cigarettes in Germany in view of the available evidence.

Complete smoking cessation remains the goal

Despite the recommendation for e-cigarettes, the goal remains to completely stop smoking, Storck makes clear. “On the way there, tobacco smokers should be supported as broadly as possible – including with the e-cigarette option,” said the expert. “By stopping smoking, we can at least slow down the disease in our patients with vascular disease and help prevent heart attacks, strokes and amputations.”

This is how the body recovers after quitting smoking

According to the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), the function of the respiratory tract improves just three days after the last cigarette. After a week, blood pressure drops and with it the risk of heart attack. After one to nine months, coughing fits, sinus congestion, and shortness of breath resolve.

The lungs are gradually cleaned by breaking down mucus. The risk of infection is reduced. Ten years after quitting, a former smoker has only half the risk of lung cancer than if he had continued smoking permanently.Two years after quitting smoking, a former smoker has almost the same risk of cardiovascular disease as a non-smoker. Anyone who has been smoke-free for five years has the same risk of heart attack as non-smokers. After five years, the risk of cancer in the oral cavity, throat, esophagus and urinary bladder also drops by half. The risk of stroke can also drop to that of a non-smoker after just two to five years.


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