So you’re thinking about cutting back on cigarettes.
Now, you’re weighing all of the different options to help you quit:
- nicotine gum
- nicotine patches
- going cold turkey
And you might have also heard about vaping e-cigarettes. With their glowing marketing claims that they taste better (with flavors like vanilla, black cherry, espresso, watermelon, and strawberry) and contain fewer harmful chemicals than regular cigarettes, it’s hard not to notice them. And since you still get a similar oral sensation as you do with cigarettes, you might think that could be a good option.
Do e-cigarettes help smokers quit? You might be surprised to learn what the research says.
How do e-cigarettes work?
E-cigarettes are devices shaped like a pen or a USB device that heat liquid into an aerosol, which the user then inhales. Because of how the liquids in e-cigarettes are ingested, there’s no smoke, which seems to make them a preferable alternative to cigarettes because you avoid the awful, smoky taste and smell.
The liquid usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals, including many of the gross ones found in cigarettes - lead, formaldehyde, acetone, and diacetyl. These are all linked to cancer and lung disease, and so you’re not avoiding them or their dangerous side effects by switching from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes. (source)
Are e-cigarettes dangerous?
The most significant danger of e-cigarettes is how little we know about them. Vaping is dangerous because of the manufacturing process. Different products may have vastly different ingredients and levels of strength, so it’s always hard to know what you’re ingesting with e-cigarettes.
In the last few years, the FDA has begun doing more research and review on the health impacts of e-cigarettes. Their measures include requiring manufacturers to submit lists of products and product ingredients, and include warning labels stating that e-cigarettes contain nicotine and are addictive, before products are allowed to go to market.
But because e-cigarettes had previously operated with far fewer regulations, people could use them without truly knowing what was in them or how dangerous they were.
While the health impacts of smoking traditional cigarettes have been studied and known for decades, a lot less information is available about the long-term effects of e-cigarettes, simply because they haven’t been around or been studied for as long.
According to the Surgeon General, “scientists are still working to understand more fully the health effects and harmful doses of e-cigarette contents when they are heated and turned into an aerosol, both for active users who inhale from a device and for those who are exposed to the aerosol secondhand.”
However, the research that does exist is...not great. Emerging data has shown that people who smoke e-cigarettes are more likely than non-smokers to have lung disease, asthma, or heart disease. One study showed that the odds of developing COPD may be as much as six times greater when people report they both vape and smoke tobacco regularly, compared with those who don’t use any tobacco products at all.
As of February 2020, more than 2,800 people in the United States had been hospitalized or killed due to a lung injury related to e-cigarettes or vaping.
“People need to understand that e-cigarettes are potentially dangerous to your health,” says Michael Blaha, a director of clinical research at Johns Hopkins University. “You’re exposing yourself to all kinds of chemicals that we don’t yet understand and that are probably not safe,”
What happens when you quit smoking and start vaping?
Unfortunately, what often happens is that you become addicted to e-cigarettes instead of, or in addition to, regular cigarettes.
E-cigarettes contain just as much nicotine as traditional cigarettes. Some contain even more due to the availability of extra-strength cartridges. As a result, when you use e-cigarettes you’re not slowly weaning off of your nicotine addiction the way that you are with other smoking cessation protocols. The reason why other smoking cessation protocols, like nicotine gum, work is because you’re slowly consuming less and less nicotine until you’re no longer dependent, but this doesn’t happen with e-cigarettes.
Research from the surgeon general shows that of high school students who smoke traditional cigarettes, 70% also smoke e-cigarettes. So while e-cigarettes were initially marketed as a safer alternative, they’ve turned out to be a gateway to conventional cigarettes.
The gateway phenomenon became so blatant that the Food and Drug Administration has prohibited e-cigarette manufacturers from using marketing and manufacturing techniques that target youth. The FDA is actively working to understand and prevent the epidemic of e-cigarettes among adolescents.
Are e-cigarettes a good tool for smoking cessation?
While e-cigarettes contain fewer harmful chemicals than traditional cigarettes, they’re not the best option out there if you’re trying to quit smoking.
Two national studies came out last year that showed that e-cigarettes are not effective in helping people cut back on smoking (only 13% of survey participants were still refraining from cigarette use after a year, which is...not a lot). And switching from smoking cigarettes to e-cigarettes kept people addicted to nicotine.
“Our results suggest that these smokers would have been just as successful in quitting smoking without the use of e-cigarettes,” said Karen Messer, PhD, a professor of public health and family medicine at the University of California San Diego who served as a senior author on both papers. “Without the use of e-cigarettes, they would have been more likely to beat their nicotine dependence.”
So what’s a better alternative?
If you’re looking to cut back on smoking and want to try an option that’s safe and effective, consider nicotine gums or lozenges.
These products contain small amounts of nicotine, and none of the other toxic chemicals found in cigarettes or e-cigarettes. When you replace cigarettes with gum or lozenges, you gradually reduce the amount of nicotine consumed until you’re no longer dependent on nicotine to get through the day.
Maybe you’ve tried vaping e-cigarettes and haven’t found it to be effective.
Give LUCY chew and park gum or nicotine lozenges a try, and let us know what you think!
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should not be construed as a substitute for, professional medical or health advice on any subject matter. Please consult your physician regarding any medical treatment decisions.