Knowledge of E-Cigarettes Varies Among Physicians

Health In Focus   - G J E 4
  • The first electronic cigarettes came out commercially in 2003, and were devised by Hon Lik, a pharmacist and smoker from China.
  • E- cigarettes or electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices fashioned to deliver nicotine with flavorings and chemicals in vapor form rather than the traditional smoke form.
  • E-cigarettes use as a quitting aid for smoking is still unclear.
Researchers evaluated patient questions on e-cigarettes from an online forum to understand the types of queries put forth by patients and the knowledge of physicians on the topic. The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Knowledge of E-Cigarettes Varies Among Physicians

Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 different chemicals and toxic substances such as nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, arsenic and DDT to name a few. Nicotine in the cigarette is what makes it addictive; in small doses, it acts as a stimulant; in large doses, it acts as a depressant and in even larger doses, is lethal.

‘E-cigarettes also known as electronic cigarettes or vapor cigarettes are marketed as a safer alternative and aid in the cessation of traditional cigarette smoking.’
Since the introduction of commercially available cigarettes in the 1800s, the cigarette has undergone a sea of change and various studies have been done regarding its harmful effects. Governments the world over have been trying to curb cigarette smoking by various campaigns and laws and regulations. However, due to the addictive property of nicotine, some people find it very difficult to quit its usage.

The newest generation of cigarettes, the e- cigarettes or electronic cigarettes have been growing in popularity since they are convenient to use, cheaper, and offer the same pleasurable sensation felt when smoking a traditional cigarette. The e-cigarette also claims to be safer than the traditional cigarette and helps habitual smokers quit the habit. This claim has brought about the widespread use of the e-cigarettes in both adults and teenagers and is a growing concern as there are very few studies done on the long-term effects of e-cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices, which resemble a regular cigarette. They consist of three parts, a mouthpiece or cartridge, which contains the liquid (nicotine, flavoring and chemicals), an atomizer or vaporizer - the heating device which causes the production of the vapor, and the battery or power source - which powers the heating element. Electronic cigarettes come in a variety of flavors such as fruit, menthol, tobacco and dessert flavors.

When an individual uses an e-cigarette, the puffing action activates the heating device, which turns the liquid in the e-cigarette into vapor; this process of using an e-cigarette is known as "vaping".

Some of the known side effects of e-cigarettes include:
  • They can blow up - as a result of the batteries getting overheated.
  • They can cause poisoning - especially when used by young kids.
  • They contain nicotine which is addictive. If stopped suddenly, the individual can face withdrawal symptoms.
  • They can cause damage to unborn babies if used by pregnant women.
In a recent study, researchers analyzed questions put forth by individuals and answers given by licensed physicians on e-cigarettes on an online health service.

The researchers found that:
  • Most of the questions by patients were based on the safety and side effects of e-cigarettes. About 34 percent of the questions pertained to the specific side effects and harms of e-cigarettes, 27 percent were related to general safety and 19 percent to use of e-cigarettes as aids to quit smoking. Other questions included the comparison of harmful effects of e-cigarettes to those of normal cigarettes, use of the cigarettes in the presence of pre-existing medical conditions, and about nicotine-free e-cigarettes.
  • With respect to the answers given by the physicians, 47 percent of answers focused on the negative aspects of e-cigarettes like risks of the e-cigarettes and discouraging patients from using them. Around 20 percent of the answers were positive, for example, encouraged the use of e-cigarettes for quitting conventional cigarettes. "The existing research, however, does not indicate that e-cigarettes help people quit combustible cigarettes," Prochaska said. "This is an area in need of greater study." Other opinions were either neutral or contradictory.
  • The satisfaction of the patient with the answer was gauged depending on which the patient pressed the thanks button. A positive response from the physician received a thanks more often.
The study re-iterates the urgent need to evaluate the benefits and risks of e-cigarettes and keep physicians as well as the general public informed about the same.

  1. Brown-Johnson CG et al. Online Patient-Provider E-cigarette Consultations: Perceptions of Safety and Harm. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. DOI:
  2. History of Tobacco - (
  3. Electronic Cigarettes Drug Facts - (
Source: Medindia

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