Can E-Cigarettes Help You Quit Smoking?
One study says yes, but not all experts agree
"They actually identified smokers who were trying to quit using e-cigarettes, whereas in the other study they just interviewed smokers in general," he said. "You really want to know when people are using them in an effort to quit and how successful they are."
Recent reports have found that some e-cigarettes may contain harmful byproducts that might increase the risk for cancer. However, toxicity tests indicate they are safer than regular cigarettes, according to prior studies.
Siegel believes the benefits of giving up cigarettes outweigh the risks posed by e-cigarettes.
"If you are able to quit without e-cigarettes at all, that's the ideal situation, but unfortunately what the data are showing is that people who are trying to quit without any aid may not be as successful," he said.
"In the long run, I think you are better off quitting than not quitting, even if e-cigarettes are the way that you quit," Siegel added. "Then we can worry about how to get people off e-cigarettes." (Nicotine is the addictive component of cigarettes.)
Dr. Norman Edelman, a senior medical advisor to the American Lung Association, isn't as quick to recommend e-cigarettes as a quit-smoking tool.
"The study is suggestive, but you can't say it's conclusive," he said.
"The American Lung Association takes the position that no agent should be thought of as safe and effective for smoking cessation unless the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves it for that purpose," Edelman said.
The real test of whether e-cigarettes help people quit will come when the manufacturers have the confidence to submit them to the FDA for review and approval as aids to quitting, Edelman said.
Last month, the FDA proposed long-awaited regulations governing the electronic cigarette industry. The new rules would give the FDA authority to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products, placing them under the same requirements as cigarettes.
For the new study, a team led by Jamie Brown, a senior research fellow at University College London's Health Behavior Research Center, surveyed over 5,850 smokers who had tried to quit without the use of prescription drugs or professional help.