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Smoking Cessation Health Center

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Survey: E-Cigarettes May Help Smokers Quit

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

Are E-Cigarettes Safe for Smoking Cessation? continued...

In a recent article, University of California, Riverside researchers Anna Trichounian and Prue Talbot, PhD, note additional safety concerns, such as leaky cartridges that get nicotine on users' fingers and confusing or absent instructions.

But what if e-cigarettes are used by people who want to quit or to cut back on real cigarettes? Just about the only thing on which all sides agree is that cigarettes are extremely dangerous -- not just because they deliver nicotine, but because they burn and deliver highly toxic combustion by-products.

"Everyone would agree that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional smoking," Eriksen says. "That does not mean they are safe. There may be other risks unknown at this point."

Siegel argues that if e-cigarettes are less harmful than real cigarettes, then people who smoke them instead of real cigarettes are reducing the harm they do to themselves. He points out that nicotine replacement patches and nicotine gum aren't totally safe, but that many people keep on using them even after they've stopped smoking cigarettes.

"If it's a choice between smoking and e-cigarettes, you are much better off with the e-cigs," Siegel says. "Even though this looks like smoking, it is a lot better than using regular 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?

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