E-cigarettes could be a possible aid in getting
people to stop smoking and thereby reducing their lung cancer risk, say The
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center researchers.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that
provide inhaled doses of nicotine vapors and flavorings. The Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 6 percent of adults have
tried e-cigarettes, a number that has nearly doubled since 2010.
However, MD Anderson cancer prevention experts Paul
Cinciripini, Ph.D., director of the Tobacco Treatment Program, and Alexander
Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., head of the Tobacco Outreach Education Program, caution
that more research is needed to understand the potential role of e-cigarettes
in smoking cessation.
"Independent studies must rigorously investigate
e-cigarettes, as there's considerable potential benefit in these products if
they're regulated and their safety is ensured," says Cinciripini. "But
promoting the e-cigarettes already on the shelves as 'safe' is misleading and,
if looked at as a harmless alternative to cigarettes, could potentially lead to
a new generation of smokers more likely to become tobacco dependent."
With the impending introduction of another
e-cigarette, Prokhorov and Cinciripini urge consumers to know the following
E-cigarettes are unregulated and there's little
research on their safety or efficacy as smoking cessation tools. "These
products are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and this is
concerning because it's impossible to know what you're really getting or if
it's safe. In one analysis nicotine levels have been shown to vary widely among
e-cigarette products," says Prokhorov. For now, he recommends that those
looking to quit stick with approved devices, such as nicotine inhalers.
Switching from tobacco to e-cigarettes could help
smokers avoid approximately 6,000 chemicals, some of which are human
carcinogens. "Reduced exposure to harmful chemicals warrants research of these
products as a smoking cessation vehicle," says Cinciripini. "Unbiased studies,
free from the ethical and legal challenges of 'Big Tobacco'-sponsored trials,
Branded as "safer," available in a variety of
colors and flavors and promoted by celebrities, e-cigarettes could be a hook
for future smokers. "E-cigarettes are a novel way to introduce tobacco smoking
to young people, and their potential 'gateway' role should be a concern for
parents and health officials alike," adds Prokhorov.
"Once a young person gets acquainted with
nicotine, it's more likely that they'll try other tobacco products."
E-cigarettes are a promising growth area for the tobacco companies, allowing
them to diversify their addictive and lethal products with a so-called "safe
cigarette," says Prokhorov. "Unfortunately, there's no proof that e-cigarettes
Cinciripini has more than 30 years' experience
conducting basic and clinical research in smoking cessation and nicotine
psychopharmacology. Prokhorov is the principal architect of MD Anderson's
ASPIRE program, a teen-focused website and, Tobacco Free Teens, a smartphone
app - both are new approaches to keeping young people free from the grips of