Skip to content

Smoking Cessation Health Center

E-Cigarettes: Separating Fiction From Fact

Health experts say more research needed into the devices' safety and effectiveness as a quit-smoking tool
Font Size
A
A
A

continued...

Wherever they're used, though, he said it's unlikely that anyone would get more than a miniscule amount of nicotine secondhand from an e-cigarette.

Can an e-cigarette help people quit smoking?

That, too, seems to be an unanswered question. Tindle said that "it's too early to tell definitively that e-cigarettes can help people quit."

A study published in The Lancet in September was the first moderately sized, randomized and controlled trial of the use of e-cigarettes to quit smoking, she said. It compared nicotine-containing e-cigarettes to nicotine patches and to e-cigarettes that simply contained flavorings. The researchers found essentially no differences in the quit rates for the products after six months of use.

"E-cigarettes didn't do worse than the patch, and there were no differences in the adverse events," she said. "I would be happy if it turned out to be a safe and effective alternative for quitting, but we need a few more large trials for safety and efficacy."

Strauss noted that "although we can't say with certainty that e-cigarettes are an effective way to quit, people are using them" for that purpose. "Some people have told me that e-cigarettes are like a godsend," he said.

Former smoker Elizabeth Phillips would agree. She's been smoke-free since July 2012 with the help of e-cigarettes, which she used for about eight months after giving up tobacco cigarettes.

"E-cigarettes allowed me to gradually quit smoking without completely removing myself from the physical actions and social experience associated with smoking," Phillips said. "I consider my e-cigarette experience as a baby step that changed my life."

Are e-cigarettes approved or regulated by the government?

E-cigarettes are not currently regulated in a specific way by the FDA. The agency would like to change this, however, and last April filed a request for the authority to regulate e-cigarettes as a tobacco product.

The attorneys general of 40 states agree that electronic cigarettes should be regulated and sent a letter to the FDA in September requesting oversight of the products. They contend that e-cigarettes are being marketed to children; some brands have fruit and candy flavors or are advertising with cartoon characters. And, they note that the health effects of e-cigarettes have not been well-studied, especially in children.

Today on WebMD

hands breaking a cigarette
Is quitting cold turkey an effective method?
ashtray
14 tips to get you through the first hard days.
 
smoking man
Surprising impacts of tobacco on the body.
cigarette smoke
What happens when you kick the habit?
 

Filtered cigarettes
ARTICLE
an array of e cigarettes
ARTICLE
 
human heart
ARTICLE
Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms
ARTICLE
 

man smoking cigarette
ARTICLE
no smoking sign
VIDEO
 
Woman ashing cigarette in ashtray
ARTICLE
chain watch
ARTICLE