Can E-Cigarettes Help You Quit Smoking?

May 21, 2014 US News & World Report

By Amir Khan

Using an e-cigarette with a nicotine patch might be the key to quitting smoking for good.

Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health, but it’s also one of the most difficult. There are myriad smoking cessation products available, from the patch to medications and beyond, but one of the most overlooked may be the e-cigarette. While most people consider it to simply be a replacement for traditional cigarettes, experts say that when used correctly, e-cigarettes may be a powerful tool to help you quit.

“E-cigarettes are less addictive and have fewer carcinogens than a traditional cigarette,” says Rima Gidwani, a pulmonologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. “There’s definitely a role for e-cigarettes in smoking cessation.”

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that vaporize liquid, often containing nicotine and other flavorings, such as bubble gum, mint or chocolate. Studies on the subject are slim, but new research published earlier this week out of the University College London found that e-cigarettes were 60 percent more effective at helping people quit when compared to quitting cold turkey. The 60 percent might be a little overblown since most people don’t try and quit cold turkey, Gidwani says, but nevertheless, the number is promising. “If we did a study here in the United States, we’d likely see e-cigarettes to be very effective.”

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But even proponents of the devices, like Derek Yach – the former head of tobacco control for the World Health Organization –? are sometimes wary of their effects. ?While e-cigarettes show promise for helping smokers quit, Yach says, the lack of evidence concerning long-term effects can make them difficult to recommend, especially if you compare them to the low-tar, low-nicotine cigarette boom in the 1960s. “Low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes were billed as a healthier alternative to cigarettes, just like e-cigarettes,” he says. “But people who used them ended up having very high rates of lung cancer. We don’t want to get caught in recommending something that ends up being dangerous again.”

Experts also worry that e-cigarettes could normalize smoking for the younger generation. “These products can draw people who may not otherwise have started smoking,” Yach says.

However, Gidwani says that until studies show e-cigarettes to be dangerous, she’ll continue to recommend them. “Cigarettes are deadly,” she says. “The full verdict isn’t in on e-cigarettes, but we know they’re better than traditional ones.”

 

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