The New Zealand authors studied the behavior of 657 people who were trying to quit. One group got nicotine patches, another got nicotine e-cigarettes and others got placebo e-cigarettes without the nicotine.
Over a period of six months, only a tiny fraction of the people in the study actually quit smoking.
People using the nicotine e-cigarettes quit at a slightly better rate compared with those using the patch, though. Some 7.3 percent using the e-cigarettes abstained from smoking traditional cigarettes compared with the 5.8 percent who stopped with the patch. About 4.1 percent stopped with just the placebo e-cigarettes.
It was such a small number of people who quit that the authors concluded "more research is urgently needed to clearly establish their overall benefits and harms at both individual and population levels."
Dr. Michael Siegel, a physician who has spent the past couple decades working on tobacco control initiatives, has been surprised by the negative reaction to e-cigarettes from so many people in the public health sector. Siegel says the studies he's done have shown e-cigarettes are a help.
"True we don't know the long-term health effect of e-cigarettes, but there's a very good likelihood that smokers are going to get lung cancer if they don't quit smoking," he said. "If they can switch to these and quit smoking traditional cigarettes, why condemn them?"
Siegel theorizes the e-cigarettes might look too much like smoking.
"It's ironic the very thing that makes them so effective ... drives the anti-smoking groups crazy. But what makes them so effective is it mimics the physical behaviors smokers have, which is something the patch can't do."
Siegel does believe there is an urgent need for more regulations.
Ray Story, founder of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, agrees. He says his association has also pushed for age verification legislation.
"When you have these companies trying to promote these as something they are not, and you have stores that sell them in the candy aisle, you are going to have a problem," Story said. "If they are officially categorized as a tobacco product, you get an automatic age verification put in place.
"Nicotine is addictive, and we want the federal government to create guidelines and a structure that will confine these to being sold as adult products."
Lashley says no matter what the debate, he will continue to spread the e-cigarette gospel to his fellow adults.
So far, his co-workers have been receptive to the idea. He used to be the only one with an e-cigarette on smoke breaks. Now he says he's got more than a dozen colleagues doing the same.
One colleague, though, complained about it.
"He said 'I'm sick of all these people smoking electronic cigarettes," Lashley said. "When I asked him why he said. 'Simple, now I can't bum any off of them.' "