E-cigarettes may or may not help with smoking cessation.Just like everything with a name that starts with “e,” e-cigarettes have experienced a massive growth in sales over the past ten years.

On the surface it makes sense. Smokers get the nicotine without all the tar and other nasty cancer causing ingredients.

But there are questions about the impact of e-cigarettes that we just don’t know the answer to.

First, e-cigarettes do contain trace amount of cancer-causing chemicals. Whether it is enough to cause cancer is anyone’s guess, and we’ll have to wait decades to know the answer. Cancer doesn’t develop overnight, even with traditional cigarettes. Perhaps the risk is worth it for those who are already smokers and want to at least cut down on the larger amount of damaging ingredients.

It is certainly worth a discussion with your doctor if you are in this situation. Be warned, health authorities do not all agree that e-cigarettes actually help with long-term smoking cessation.

Second, we have to be concerned about the effect of e-cigarettes on those who have never smoked tobacco. This topic was recently addressed in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers followed a group of over 2,500 9th graders who had never used cigarettes or other tobacco containing products. Those in the group who used e-cigarettes were about three times as likely as those who didn’t to begin smoking traditional cigarettes within the following year.

This raises the concern that e-cigarettes may addict individuals, particularly adolescents, to nicotine. They serve as a gateway drug to cigarettes. “Our concern has been whether early exposure of adolescents to nicotine could prime their brain to the rewarding effects of other drugs including tobacco,” explains Nora Volkow, MD, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This research demonstrates that this concern legitimate.

The World Health Organization addressed this issue in a bulletin earlier this year which calls for limits on advertising for e-cigarettes, particularly when it is targeted toward young people.

If you are a smoker and wish to cut down, it is worthwhile to speak with your doctor about how e-cigarettes can be used to help you with that goal. However, non-smokers should avoid the use of e-cigarettes, and parent should be watchful for the use of these products by their children.


Photo Credit © Alex White via Dollar Photo Club.