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Can E-Cigs Lead to Smoking Cessation?

E-Cigarettes harm reduction health risks smoke-free alternative to cigarettes

Everyday someone in America makes a vow to stop smoking. However, anyone who has ever tried quitting knows how frustrating and difficult it is to kick the habit. Many people have reported success utilizing electronic cigarettes as a smoking cessation option. In a in WebMd News article Healthday.com reporter Serena Gordon attempts to separate fact from fiction.

So, what is an e-cigarette? According to the article, "the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) describes an e-cigarette as a battery-operated device that turns nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals into a vapor that can be inhaled." This process is called "vaping" rather than smoking, and generally, people who vape call themselves "vapers" as opposed to smokers. Some e-cigarettes or e-cigs are designed to look like real cigarettes, but as the ecig industry evolves, a wide variety of new nicotine delivery devices are arriving in the marketplace.

Even though some e-cigs may look like tobacco-burning analog cigarettes, the way nicotine enters the bloodstream is different. According to the article, most of the nicotine in e-cigarettes is delivered into the bloodstream through the soft tissue of your cheeks (this tissue is called buccal mucosa) instead of the lungs. Dr. Gordon Strauss, founder of QuitGroups and a psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City theorizes that "Nicotine from a regular cigarette gets to the brain much quicker, which may make them more addictive."

Where can electronic cigarettes be used? Dr.Strauss, after observing that most e-cigarette users typically want to use their e-cigs in places that they aren't currently allowed to smoke such as indoors and on airplanes, goes on to say that "it's unlikely that anyone would get more than a miniscule amount of nicotine secondhand from an e-cigarette."

One of the larger questions concerning e-cigs is whether an e-cigarette can help people to quit smoking. Professor Hilary Tindale, an assistant professor of medicine and director of the tobacco treatment service at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center suggests that "It's too early to tell definitively that e-cigarettes can help people quit."

An e-cigarette study published in The Lancet 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. Tindale went on to point out that in the study "E-cigarettes didn't do worse than the patch, and there were no differences in the adverse events. 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."

In the article, former smoker Elizabeth Phillips tells her success story of how using e-cigs helped her kick the habit: "E-cigarettes allowed me to gradually quit smoking without completely removing myself from the physical actions and social experience associated with smoking. I consider my e-cigarette experience as a baby step that changed my life."



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