I have been getting a lot of questions about e-cigarettes. The two most common are: 1) Are they safe? and 2) Can they help me quit smoking?

I discussed one of the risks of e-cigarettes in my last post regarding the toxicity of e-liquid. Overall, you are exposed to fewer toxins if you vaporize nicotine versus the traditional combustion of tobacco that occurs in a traditional cigarette. While the long term risks of e-cigarettes have yet to be established, overall, e-cigarettes are likely safer than traditional cigarettes.

The answer to the 2nd question, “can they help me quit,” is less well known. Despite a lack of supporting data, many e-cigarette manufacturers are purporting that their products are smoking cessation aids. Additionally, the FDA currently does not recognize or regulate e-cigarettes as smoking cessation aids.

Where is the data to support this?

The LATimes discussed this issue in a recent article. They discuss two studies which do not seem to show that e-cigarettes helped users quit smoking.

The first study compared e-cigarettes (with and without nicotine) to use of a nicotine patch. The researchers found no differences in rates of quitting over six months, although 85% of e-cigarette users said they were using them to quit.

The 2nd study surveyed 949 smokers and found that using e-cigarettes at the start of the study did not predict who quit at the end of the study (one year later). Use of e-cigarettes was also “not associated with a change in cigarette consumption.”

I educate my patients that e-cigarettes are probably NOT more effective at helping them quit smoking than other forms of nicotine replacement (including commonly used gum and patches). Additionally, use of an e-cigarette may reinforce smoking behavior because the act of smoking an e-cigarette so closely resembles a traditional cigarette.

Everyone is unique, but I always recommend that my patients remove all smoking paraphernalia from their home and office. This includes lighters, ashtrays and also cleaning drapes and other upholstery, as these can serve as triggers for relapsing to smoking. It also important to avoid the people and places that support or trigger your smoking behavior. Therefore, mimicking the act of smoking with an e-cigarette could serve as a trigger and reinforce the psychological addiction that reinforces smoking behavior, making it harder to quit.

If you have other questions about smoking cessation and/or e-cigarettes please refer to my previous posts on this subject. You can jump to those articles here. 


Dr. Goldenberg

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