E-Cigs 'Less Harmful' Than Conventional Cigarettes: Review

Many N.C. doctors recommend e-cigarettes for cessation, another study reveals

Electronic cigarette (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores / Tobacco)

LONDON -- A major scientific review of available research on the use, content and safety of electronic cigarettes by the medical journal Addiction has concluded that although long-term health effects of e-cigarette use are unknown, compared with conventional cigarettes, they are likely to be much less harmful to users or bystanders.

The review concluded that although there are gaps in the knowledge that require further research, the current evidence about e-cigarettes does not justify regulating them more strictly than, or even as strictly as, conventional cigarettes.

Regulatory decisions will provide the greatest public health benefit when they are proportional, based on evidence and incorporate a rational appraisal of likely risks and benefits, said the report.

An international team of tobacco researchers led by Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University of London conducted the scientific review.

"The evidence we currently have is clear: e-cigarettes should be allowed to compete against conventional cigarettes in the marketplace," said Hajek. "Healthcare 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."

Separately, a survey of North Carolina physicians by the scientific journal PLOS ONE found that more than two-thirds (67.2%) of the physicians indicated that e-cigarettes are a helpful aid for smoking cessation, and 35.2% recommended them to their patients. A majority (64.8%) believed that e-cigarettes lower the risk of cancer for patients who use them instead of smoking cigarettes.

E-cigarettes were also frequently part of the clinical encounter, with 48.4% of physicians responding that patients ask about e-cigarettes frequently or sometimes. Only 20.5% of physicians indicated they are never asked about e-cigarettes; 13% of physicians incorrectly believed that e-cigarettes are already approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for smoking cessation.

"This research provides a first look at how e-cigarettes are being used as cessation devices among physicians who treat adult patients," said the report. "Our results suggest that physicians see potential in these products as a cessation device and that some make recommendations for their use. As e-cigarettes become more mainstream, physicians may be called on to engage in conversations with their patients about the safety and efficacy of these products. It is essential that the FDA critically review the current evidence on e-cigarettes and provide clear guidance about e-cigarettes and tobacco cessation."