Health Team

Doctors still unsure of e-cigarette benefits

Posted August 13, 2014

Every day, doctors tell their patients to quit smoking to lower their risk of life-threatening diseases.

A recent survey by the University of North Carolina asked doctors what strategies they recommend. It found that more and more physicians are pointing their patients to electronic cigarettes, perhaps based on misinformation.

UNC researchers surveyed 128 North Carolina physicians about their attitudes toward e-cigarettes.

  • 2 out of 3 believed e-cigarettes were a useful smoking cessation aid
  • 35 percent e-cigarettes to their patients to help them quit

The survey also found some doctors have false assumptions about the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes.

"In our sample, 13 percent of physicians thought these were already regulated by the FDA when, indeed, they are not right now," said Dr. Adam Goldstein, leader of the study. 

Goldstein said the FDA does recommended smoking cessation aids like nicotine patches, lozenges and gum, but those products alone don't work for most smokers.

"Combine that with counseling. None of us would say, 'Just give us a drug,'" he said.

"It's that combination that gives people the greatest success in quitting – 30 to 35 percent if you can really combine these things."

A study last year in the medical journal Lancet found that e-cigarettes, with or without nicotine, were no more effective than the nicotine patch at helping smokers quit.

Goldstein said he would wait for more research on e-cigarette products' overall benefits and their health risks, as well as FDA approval and regulations, before recommending them to his patients who want to quit smoking.

The FDA has limited sales of e-cigarettes products to people under 18.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • combatvet Aug 14, 2014

    Apparently I am too old to buy them.

  • 45ACP Aug 14, 2014

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    So, if someone was wearing a red shirt and dropped dead of a heart attack, you would say the red shirt was the cause? Your comment makes no sense.

  • Kristin Byrne Aug 14, 2014
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    My paternal grandfather really enjoyed the regular cigarettes I've been told he liked to smoke. Sometimes 2+ packs a day. He dropped dead of a massive heart attack at 40.

    What was your point?

  • iopsyc Aug 14, 2014

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    Was the e-cig determined to be the cause of his heart attack? If not, then I am unsure what the point of the anecdote is.

  • Justin Case Aug 14, 2014
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    Smoking is just a manifestation of people's addictive tendencies. I much prefer someone 'smoking' vapor than real tobacco around me. I think the FDA should develop some guidelines as this is a product that is very effectively introduced to our bodies. Nicotine is an addictive poison and should be regulated as such. But even the other ingredients need to at least be declared on a label. I can just imagine a bunch of Chinese vapor coming here with things like melamine and lead in the mix and 'nobody knows'.

  • cpacandidate Aug 13, 2014

    An older gentleman in our neighborhood was really enjoying one of those but he had a heart attack after soaking it up for a few weeks.