The debate whether e-cigarettes can be associated to smoking cessation continues, as a new study says that there may not be any link at all. The study, performed by the University of California in San Francisco and published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, reveals that the use of e-cigarettes does not necessarily help to quit smoking traditional cigarettes.
Researchers of the study, lead by Dr. Pamela Ling, followed nearly 1,000 smokers for a year to find out if smoking cessation could be truly associated with the popular e-cigarette. The results show that there is no significant difference in dependency on tobacco between those who use e-cigarettes and those who do not use it; however, since only 90 of the followed smokers used e-cigarettes, the study also raises more questions.
Ling says, “We admit that it is difficult to draw conclusions based on the results of the study, but we looked at a broad population and not just those who want to quit smoking.” According to Ling, the study does highlight the fact that there is a lack of evidence in the link between smoking cessation and e-cigarettes and researchers of the University of California expect that there may not be a link at all.
The study also reveals that e-cigarettes could be placed in the same category as nicotine patches. A comparison between the two in a clinical trial shows that only five to seven percent were able to quit smoking when using either of the products.
Dr. Mitchell Katz, deputy editor of JAMA Internal Medicine, says, “The use of e-cigarettes may not contribute to smoking cessation, but I do think there is potential harm in the product, as it is unregulated.” Katz is not the only one who is concerned about the possible harms of e-cigarettes in the fight for smoking cessation and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said they might place the product under the same regulations as regular tobacco products later this year.
Part of the concern comes from the fact that e-liquids can be hazardous if accidentally ingested or applied to the skin. In 2013, accidents related to e-liquids increased to 1,351, an increase of 300 percent compared to 2012. Data from the American Association of Poison Control shows that accidents could reach 2,700 in 2014.
Although the new study shows some insights on the link between smoking cessation and e-cigarettes, most medical professionals say it is too soon to judge whether e-cigarettes are an effective tool to quit traditional cigarettes. Dr. Maciej L. Goniewicz from the Roswell Cancer Park Institute in Buffalo, New York, says, “It is something we need to closely monitor in the coming years. Only then can we understand the effects of e-cigarettes on a population level.”
The e-cigarette keeps Ling and her team of researchers busy, as they have also reviewed 59 websites selling e-cigarettes. According to Ling, 95 percent of those websites make health-related claims. Some of the claims suggest that e-cigarettes contribute to smoking cessation, while others claim that there is no production of secondhand smoke. The claim that e-cigarettes are free of toxins was also present.
Until the FDA regulates e-cigarettes, sellers are left with the freedom to make any health-related claim, even though their product may not be linked to smoking cessation.
By Diana Herst