Can e-cigarettes help you quit smoking? That’s unproven

The notion that electronic cigarettes can help smokers cut back or quit smoking is uproven, says an article in the June issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. The article contradicts British research suggesting that e-cigarettes could play a positive role in reducing smoking rates for people who try to quit smoking without the aid of prescription medication or professional support.

Photo from U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Manufactures of e-cigarettes say that progressively adding smaller doses of nicotine to the e-cigarette will help smokers quit smoking. But the authors say this theory hasn’t been proven and no evidence supports the claims. “Despite the apparent optimism surrounding e-cigarettes and their purported therapeutic role in smoking cessation, there just simply is not enough evidence to suggest that consumers should use e-cigarettes for this purpose,” lead author Andrew Nickels says.

Nickels examined the risks of e-cigarettes, including the ongoing dependence on nicotine and dual use of e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes. Dual use is common, with people using e-cigarettes in public and smoking regular cigarettes at home. The researchers found that this behavior continues to expose children and asthma sufferers in the household to secondhand smoke. “It also promotes ongoing nicotine dependence,” says co-author Chitra Dinakar.

Nicotine is an addictive neurotoxin, and the increased use of e-cigarettes has caused an increase in calls to poison centers. The most common adverse health effects from e-cigarettes are nausea and eye irritation, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. More than half the calls involved children under 5.

Because e-cigarettes are fairly new, the article says there could be other long-term health complications that have yet to be discovered. Results of long-term exposure to such substances are unknown.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed a rule that will allow it to regulate e-cigarettes. In April, Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law Senate Bill 109, which prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in Kentucky.

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