E-Cigarettes: Health Menace or Health Aid?

Eileen Oldfield, Associate Editor
Published Online: Monday, August 4, 2014
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Preliminary evidence shows e-cigarettes contain lower concentrations of the compounds found in traditional cigarettes.

E-cigarettes might not be as harmful as traditional cigarettes, and could result in lower morbidity and mortality to users and bystanders, the results of a study published online July 31, 2014, in Addiction suggest.

Although the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use are unknown, a review of current evidence conducted by Queen Mary University of London researchers showed that while electronic cigarette aerosol contains some of the compounds found in traditional cigarettes, the concentrations are much lower than those found in tobacco smoke. As result, the long-term health effects associated with e-cigarette use are likely to be less than that of traditional cigarettes.

Researchers concluded that the available evidence does not support regulating e-cigarettes as strictly as, or more strictly than traditional cigarettes, despite gaps in the research.

“The evidence we currently have is clear: e-cigarettes should be allowed to compete against conventional cigarettes in the marketplace,” said Peter Hajek, PhD, professor of clinical psychology at Queen Mary University of London and director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unity at Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine. “Health care professionals may advise smokers who are unwilling to cease nicotine use to switch to e-cigarettes. Smokers who have not managed to stop with current treatments may also benefit from switching to e-cigarettes.”

Noting evidence that e-cigarettes assisted some patients in quitting, the researchers further concluded that health professionals could suggest the devices to patients who are unable to quit or who are unwilling to quit.

In April, the FDA proposed a new rule to regulate e-cigarettes and several types of unregulated tobacco products, including cigars, pipe tobacco, and nicotine gels. In an effort to encourage smoking cessation, the Centers for Disease Control last month launched a website for pharmacists with tools to be used in pharmacists’ daily practice.

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