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Survey: E-Cigarettes May Help Smokers Quit

Some E-Cig Smokers Say Devices Helped Them Quit Smoking Cigarettes

Can E-Cigarettes Help People Quit or Cut Back on Smoking?

Many e-cigarette users say the devices have helped them quit smoking, or at least cut back.

That's what scientists call "anecdotal evidence," i.e., not a proven fact. To remedy the gap in scientific evidence, Siegel is currently studying a group of e-cigarette users to see whether they're quitting or cutting back on real cigarettes.

However, only an expensive clinical trial could really determine how safe and effective e-cigarettes are for smokers who want to quit. U.S. e-cigarette distributors may be making money, but not that kind of money. Perhaps uniquely for this kind of product, they are not linked to tobacco or pharmaceutical companies. If there's going to be a clinical trial, there are no deep pockets to pay for it.

And why e-cigarettes? Why not nicotine gum, nicotine patches, or nicotine inhalers -- all of which have won FDA approval?

"The reason they seem to be so effective is because they simulate the physical act of smoking," Siegel says. "Smoking is a lot more than pharmacologic addition. If you talk to smokers, they will tell you there is more to it. The act of smoking, holding onto it, going through the motions, doing the inhaling -- even the social aspects of it, are all preserved with e-cigarettes."

"The e-cigarette has benefit of offering smoking behavior as well as nicotine delivery," Eriksen agrees.

And here's a compelling hint from Siegel's study. Among smokers who puffed e-cigarettes more than 20 times a day for six months, 70% said they'd quit smoking cigarettes.

"The promise e-cigarettes have needs to be explored objectively, and rational policies need to be developed," Eriksen says. "If they turn out to be helpful in getting people to quit smoking they should be made available for that purpose."

The Siegel article was published Feb. 8 online ahead of print by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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