If you are considering trading your tobacco addiction for “something less toxic” you might be looking at electronic cigarettes as one of your options. E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution in a disposable cartridge to create a vapor that’s inhaled, a practice known as “vaping.”
They’re sold at grocery and specialty stores, online, and are marketed to consumers — including minors — as being safer than traditional tobacco smokes.
Since being introduced to consumers in 2003, e-cigarettes have proven wildly popular, particularly among smokers trying to get off tobacco. So little was known about this new smokeless nicotine-delivery system that scores of studies have been initiated to figure out what, if any, benefits and risks the products pose to users.
Emerging research suggests that trading your tobacco products for e-cigs is probably a less toxic choice but the vapor devices' benefits still pale in comparison to smoking cessation. A panel of experts concurred, speaking at a press conference this week as part of the annual Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research conference sponsored by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).
The e-cigarette market, and the devices themselves, are changing so rapidly, science is having a difficult time keep pace, said Dr. Scott Leischow, Ph.D., co-lead of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. This presents numerous challenges to public health experts in determining whether or not the products are safe and effective.
“We’ve found the amount of nicotine people are getting from E-cigarettes does depress withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings, and individuals have reported it functions as a reasonable substitute for tobacco cigarettes,” Leischow said.
But it’s still unclear whether using the products for smoking cessation actually works, what the relapse rate might be, and whether or not e-cigarettes will ultimately reduce disease risk in smokers or produce new risks, he said.