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Are E-Cigarettes Helpful for Smokers Seeking to Quit or Just Another Health Hazard?

  1. Beenthere2Hippie
    Scientific studies showing that electronic cigarettes actually help people quit smoking are few and far between. But that isn't stopping many smokers, as well as a few experts, from giving e-cigarettes the benefit of the doubt.

    A new controversial opinion piece goes so far as to suggest that e-cigarettes could bring about the "demise" of traditional smokes, and save thousands of lives in the process. The only thing holding these smokeless devices back from much wider use is that people know they aren't regulated, and so some are less likely to use them, according to Dr. Nathan Cobb, assistant professor of medicine in the division of pulmonary and critical care at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

    E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that hold liquid solutions containing nicotine, and deliver the drug as a vapor, but don't contain tobacco or produce smoke. Studies have shown that the devices contain fewer chemicals than traditional cigarettes, but their effects on health are not clear. [4 Myths About E-Cigarettes]

    The trouble with e-cigarettes today is that they're a kind of "black-market nicotine therapy," Cobb told Live Science. In other words, people could use these devices to wean themselves off nicotine in much the same way they might use more conventional nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) — for example, the patch, nicotine gum or nasal sprays. But unlike other NRTs, e-cigarettes aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    "When you go and you buy a black-market TV, you have no idea if it's going to work like you think it's going to work. You have no idea who made it, if it's real, if it's going to blow up," said Cobb, who went on to say that the same thing is true of e-cigarettes.

    Taking electronic smokes off this so-called black market by subjecting them to greater regulation would be taking a product that's already popular with those trying to quit smoking and making it safer, Cobb said. This might be easier than trying to make the NRTs that have already been proven to be safe more popular, Cobb suggested.

    "Nicotine replacement works — it doubles quit rates. But it has terrible reach. The number of smokers in the country who actually use it is poor," said Cobb, whose editorial is published in the Thursday (Oct. 16) issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

    Even if e-cigarettes aren't as effective in helping people quit as these other forms of nicotine replacement therapy — a question that requires much more research — Cobb still thinks the devices could play a part in reducing smoking rates in the United States. Because of their popularity, electronic cigarettes have the potential to help three times as many people quit smoking as conventional NRTs, he said.

    However, not everyone is as enthusiastic about the potential role of e-cigarettes in public health as are Cobb and his co-author, David Abrams, who is executive director of the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies at the Legacy Foundation in Washington, D.C.

    "This commentary assumes that e-cigarettes, as currently in the marketplace, will help people quit smoking and ignores the consistent evidence from population-based studies that smokers who use e-cigarettes are about one-third less likely to quit smoking," Stanton Glantz, a professor of tobacco control at the University of California, San Francisco, told Live Science in an email.

    A recent study in the journal Cancer found that cancer patients who tried to quit smoking using e-cigarettes were actually more nicotine-dependent, and twice as likely to still be smoking at the study's end, than cancer patients who tried to quit without using e-cigarettes.

    Other experts agree that more comprehensive research needs to be conducted in order for medical professionals to move ahead with public health policies that position e-cigarettes as cessation aids for smokers. In the meantime, it's simply too early to tell whether or not e-cigarettes are really effective at getting people to stop smoking, according to Dr. Michael Steinberg, director of the tobacco dependence program at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey.

    "The authors are starting from the position of comparing e-cigarettes to FDA-approved nicotine medications. The problem is that although we have an exhaustive source of scientific studies demonstrating the safety and efficacy of NRT, no such evidence base exists for e-cigarettes," Steinberg told Live Science in an email.

    The Huffington Post/Nov. 21, 2014
    Newshawk Crew

    Author Bio

    BT2H is a retired news editor and writer from the NYC area who, for health reasons, retired to a southern US state early, and where BT2H continues to write and to post drug-related news to DF.


  1. Penguin Harmonica
    Re: Are E-Cigarettes Helpful for Smokers Seeking to Quit or Just Another Health Hazar

    That may be true for black market TV's, unless you plug it in and test it out before you buy it. A lot of vape shops will let you test different devices and juices before buying them. If you buy directly from the manufacturer then you will know exactly who made it and whether or not they have a good or bad reputation. If you are buying direct from the manufacturer then you will know for certain that it is 'real'(I presume they mean genuine...not holographic or something silly like that).

    On the subject of products blowing up; There have been several cases of ecigarettes blowing up. This is extremely rare, almost unheard of, if you use the device in a normal way. Some vapers like to make sub-ohm coils which 'suck' a lot more power than the average 18650 battery is rated for. It is advised that anyone doing this use high amp Li-Mn batteries which can handle the excess load and not go under .15ohms due to the exponential risk when you step down in resistance. Even so, with people using the ecigs in dangerous ways with subohm coils, there has only been a handful of cases where ecigs have exploded. Not only that, but the majority, if not ALL mods come with a built in safety feature; holes in the end cap which serve to vent gas being expelled from faulty or leaky batteries.

    The industry is self regulating. Vendors are already regulating themselves. Not only that but there are a couple in-industry regulatory groups which protect vapers. There is no reason for the FDA to step in. The only reason they want to regulate it is for money. They want a piece of the pie.

    NRTs proven safe? *cough* chantix *cough cough*

    BULLSHIT! The reach is poor my ass. Ask the average person if they've heard of nicotine gum/patches. 99 out of 100 will say yes. It's not that the reach is poor, no no. That's not the problem. The problem is that patches and gum are expensive and aren't effective. People just don't like them. They don't satisfy the oral fixation.

    I could continue to tear the rest of the article apart but there is really no point. The fact of the matter is that classic NRTs such as chantix, the patch, and gum are ineffective and electronic cigarettes are more effective. If classic NRTs are more effective then there is no need to do anything. The numbers will work themselves out and everyone will switch to the patch. lol
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