The commercialism of e-cigarettes is far outstripping the science and health research on the devices. In effect, we don’t know what we don’t know. Companies can spring up overnight to market new e-cigarette devices and formulas. Long-term health studies? There’s a reason the studies are prefaced with long-term.
A small study in Scotland looked into whether smokers used e-cigarettes to quit traditional smoking or if the use acted as a temptation to return to their favorite brand of tobacco.
64 smokers were interviewed, and the results were inconclusive at best. The smokers couldn’t agree on whether e-cigarettes represented a bridge to quitting, and any potential health risks or benefits the devices presented.
Published in the journal Tobacco Control, the division among smokers mirrors the same divisions in the medical community. Some health experts push e-cigarettes as an alternative to traditional smoking while others want to see real-world, long-term impact studies.
Senior study author Amanda Amos, a researcher at the Center for Population Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, led a team to conduct the interviews.
In total, 12 focus groups were conducted along with 11 individual interviews. Most of the 64 participants viewed smoking as an addiction. Their answer to kicking the habit? Willpower.
Out of the 64, the consensus view on e-cigarettes was the devices were a distinct product from traditional nicotine replacement therapies such as patches and gum. Traditional therapies such as nicotine gum were likely to be prescribed by their doctor and the group associated them with medical products.
E-cigarettes did not enjoy that view. Participants were more likely to be confused about the intended purpose of the devices. Some saw them as a more desirable experience than traditional smoking while others hated the experience or even called them a threat to helping a smoker quit.
E-Cigarettes and Quitting Smoking
It seems clear e-cigarettes would be preferred over traditional smoking. E-cigarettes are not burning tobacco, and the user is not inhaling the carcinogens associated with regular cigarettes.
That’s true, but there is little regulation on the formulas e-cigarettes use in their nicotine cartridges, so researchers are left scrambling to figure what exactly is being inhaled and under which brand.
Can the devices help quit smoking? The study out of Scotland is too small to draw any meaningful conclusion. What works for one smoker, may not work for another. Just look at the array of prescription drugs and nicotine replacement products.
If smoking cessation were a one therapy fits all problem, we would not see the range of choices.
For smokers that cannot quit using traditional methods, e-cigarettes offer another approach. The products mimic the style of smoking a cigarette, complete with exhaling vapor and a glowing end.
More research, including comparison studies, has to be done. It probably won’t be the panacea we all hope for to help smokers kick the habit, but it can join an ever growing list of therapies.