Doctor: E-cigarettes don't help smokers kick habit
Posted June 19, 2013
Updated July 1, 2013
Chapel Hill, N.C. — There is an editor's note posted below this story.
Although many smokers believe that e-cigarettes can help them kick a stubborn and unhealthy habit, the battery-powered devices still aren't recommended by medical doctors as a viable solution.
E-cigarettes aren't approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a smoking cessation device, and doctors at UNC Hospitals have found that they have almost no effect in helping people to quit smoking.
Chris Coffey, a 32-year-old former smoker who started smoking more than a decade ago, said he tried different ways to quit.
When he saw an online ad for electronic cigarettes, which combine nicotine with alcohol and water solution, he decided to give it a try.
"For me, it didn't work at all," Coffey said.
Adam Goldstein, director of UNC's Nicotine Dependence Program, said the story is similar for thousands of others who turn to e-cigarettes to try and stop smoking.
"All of our patients ask about electronic cigarettes," he said. "All our patients who smoke. There's virtually no evidence that they are effective in helping people to quit smoking."
Goldstein said it's marketing that continues to push people to the devices.
In spite of that popularity, Goldstein said he's concerned about long-term effects of nicotine mixed with the hot vapor.
"It could be several thousand degrees when it hits your lungs," he said. "We know there are short-term adverse pulmonary respiratory effects."
Goldstein and others working in UNC's program do offer up to five different products to help smokers looking to quit.
For the past six months, Coffey has been combining a nicotine patch with Chantix, a nicotine receptor blocker.
"It really helped a lot to take the edge off and to make it a lot more tolerable," he said.
Goldstein said the products offered in Chapel Hill are both effective and better researched.
"We know what the side effects are," he said.
Although FDA-approved smoking cessation aids are only about 30 percent effective, they do give smokers a much better chance at success than if they attempt to stop on their own.
The state offers a helpline for those who are trying to quit. Call 1-800-784-8669 (1-800-QUIT-NOW).
For more resources, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Editor's Note: Many WRAL viewers have questioned the assertion by Adam Goldstein, director of UNC's Nicotine Dependence Program, that inhaled vapor from electronic cigarettes "could be several thousand degrees when it hits your lungs."
Goldstein's office replied: "We can’t find any citations about the temperature of the vapor specifically, but there is concern about the pulmonary respiratory effects of the vapor itself."
His office offered these relevant article links:
Goldstein acknowledged that some will say the devices helped them, but he says in his experience, they are in the minority.
He added the following statements:
"I was and remain concerned about potential lung damage when and if the electronic battery overheats or explodes, a situation that has resulted in reports of serious health consequences and damage. I did not mean to imply that such high exposure is routine for users, where temperatures without battery overheating are much less. I apologize for not making this distinction.
"Even with routine inhalation, published concerns about lung damage exist. Many physicians are also still concerned that electronic cigarettes have too little regulation, that there is insufficient evidence of safety and outcomes, and that they may offer a new gateway for youth or young adults especially to start using tobacco. I look forward to more research on safety, health outcomes and effectiveness. In the meantime, I congratulate everyone who is able to successfully quit cigarette smoking, the number one preventable cause of premature death in our society."