Are you looking to quit smoking? That’s great news! Giving up smoking is an extremely tough decision to make (and keep), but one that has incomparable health benefits for the short and long term.
There are many ways you can quit smoking that range anywhere from quitting cold turkey, weaning yourself via nicotine patches and gum, to medications prescribed from your family provider. One speculated way of quitting that has gained popularity over the past few years is the use of electronic cigarettes or “e-cigs”. I would like to clear some misconceptions about the use of these products and hopefully provide good information that helps consumers make educated and accurate decisions about their quitting tools.
What are e-cigs?
E-cigs are battery operated, hand held devices that vaporize nicotine and other chemicals for inhalation. They were first introduced into the U.S. market in 2006 and have been gaining acceptance over the past few years. When exhaled, the vapor looks similar to smoke and has gained the nickname of “vaping”.
What is the controversy behind e-cigs?
You may have heard the many arguments behind whether e-cigs can truly help people quit smoking, or whether that is simply a marketing ploy. The producers of e-cigs and those that provide accessories to the product hold fast to the claims that they are “healthier” than traditional cigarettes because “[they] deliver nicotine without the thousands of known and unknown toxicants in tobacco smoke” (Cahn & Siegel, para. 3, 2011). However, a 2014 study revealed higher voltage e-cigs have higher levels of formaldehyde and other toxic carcinogens (American Lung Association (ALA), 2015).
E-cigs are currently not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means it is unknown how much nicotine or other harmful chemicals are being ingested during use (FDA, 2014). This means e-cig vapor contents can vary across manufacturers, who are not required to disclose what exactly is in the vapor being sold. These chemicals are the same as those found in traditional cigarettes and have been known to be the cause of cancer related to tobacco smoking.
What are my other options then?
Thankfully, there are many other FDA regulated and medically approved options available for smoking cessation. First, talk with your family provider about your intentions. They will be able to discuss with you various alternatives that range from over the counter tools to prescribed medications. Smokefree.gov is an excellent website full of information from reputable sources that includes tips on how to adjust to life without smoking and how to manage withdrawal symptoms.
Meredith Long is a Board Certified Family Medicine Nurse Practitioner at Cedar Park Pediatric & Family Medicine. She is currently accepting new patients.
Cahn, Z. & Siegel, M. (2011). Electronic cigarettes as a harm reduction strategy for tobacco control: a step forward or a repeat of past mistakes? Journal of Public Health Policy, 32, 16-31. doi: 10.1057/jphp.2010.41.Food and Drug Administration. (2014). Electronic cigarettes. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/newsevents/publichealthfocus/ucm172906.htm .
Food and Drug Administration. (n.d.) Ecigarettes. Retrieved from http://smokefree.gov/e-cigarettes
American Lung Association. (2015). American Lung Association Statement on E-Cigarettes. Retrieved from http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/tobacco-control-advocacy/federal/e-cigarettes.html.