Are Electronic Cigarettes Better than Cigarettes?
- E-cigarettes are technically not considered tobacco products. The similarity between cigarettes and e-cigarettes does not stop at their harmful effects or popularity among young people — the trendy advertisements that made smoking seem cool have resurfaced.
- The alternatives include FDA-approved methods such as nicotine patches or nicotine gum that have proven effectiveness, something that e-cigarettes currently lack.
- Crozer-Keystone Health System offers free, six-week “Clear the Air” smoking cessation classes for anyone who would like to quit smoking. For more information and to register, please call Community Health Education at 610-447-6009.
Breaking any kind of habit can be difficult, but smoking is among the hardest. Like any other addictive drug, nicotine takes weeks to leave the system, leaving a former smoker feeling irritable, anxious and frustrated — the common signs of withdrawal.
In order to make the transition easier, many former smokers will use nicotine replacement therapy products such as a transdermal nicotine patch, which releases nicotine into the body via skin, or nicotine gum, which orally administers nicotine. Both of these methods are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Recently, there has been another product on the market that, while not FDA-approved, has still managed to grab the attention of those looking to quit.
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are electronic inhalers that are meant to serve as a substitute for smoking. By using a heating element that vaporizes a liquid solution, they release nicotine, or, in some cases flavored vapor. As of 2013, very little is known about the effectiveness of e-cigarettes but they are marketed as giving the user “the freedom to have a cigarette without the guilt.” But given that there is very little information about their safety and effectiveness for smoking cessation, there may be more of a risk with e-cigarettes than the real thing.
Melissa Maier, program coordinator for Crozer-Keystone Health System (CKHS) Community Health Education, says that for many smokers, the hand-to-mouth motion is one of the hardest habits to break, which accounts for weight gain for some individuals. The e-cigarette encourages this habit, rather than try to eliminate it. “E-cigarettes say you can continue to smoke,” she says. “They trick people.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 21 percent of adults tried using e-cigarettes in 2011, an 11 percent increase from the year before. Tim McAfree, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC says, “If large numbers of adult smokers become users of both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes — rather than using e-cigarettes to quit cigarettes completely — the net public health effect could be quite negative.”
Increasingly Popular Among Teens
E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular among teenagers who are looking to try smoking and gradually move on to the real thing. Because e-cigarettes are advertised for therapeutic purposes, then are not regulated by the FDA. As a consequence, most states do not have restrictions against minors purchasing e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are technically not considered tobacco products. Because of this distinction, they have made their way into living rooms in the form of commercials. The similarity between cigarettes and e-cigarettes does not stop at their harmful effects or popularity among young people — the trendy advertisements that made smoking seem cool have resurfaced. Celebrity endorsements, sports sponsorships and even cartoons depict the e-cigarettes in a positive light. Blu Cigs even has an ad that proclaims, “Why quit? Switch to blu.”
“People want it to be easy to quit, more doable and more comfortable. But that doesn’t exist. You have to work for it. E-cigarettes are being presented as the easy way out,” Maier says. “It’ll never stack up against the alternatives.”
Alternatives with Proven Effectiveness
Alternatives include FDA-approved methods, such as nicotine patches or nicotine gum. These methods have proven effectiveness, something that e-cigarettes currently lack. Maier went on to say that dual therapy and group therapy are often required in order for quitting to be successful.
“The numbers of young smokers was going down but now there’s a rise in young kids using e-cigarettes. If it was healthy it would be approved by the FDA,” Maier adds.
In 2009, the FDA conducted a test on samples of e-cigarettes and found that many of the samples contained anabasine, myosmine, and β-nicotyrine all of which are harmful to humans. As a result, they banned the sale of the products. However, two importing companies of the product challenged the FDA in Sottera v. Food and Drug Administration. The court ruled that “the FDA cited no evidence that electronic cigarettes harmed anyone.”
“Clear the Air” in Six Weeks
When making the decision to start living a healthier lifestyle, it’s important to take healthy and approved initiatives. CKHS offers free, six-week “Clear the Air” smoking cessation classes for anyone who would like to quit smoking. The group programs, led by experts who understand why people smoke, use a positive behavioral change approach to help people stop smoking for good. Free nicotine replacement therapy in the form of patches and gum may be available for those who qualify. For more information and to register, please call Community Health Education at 610-447-6009 or visit www.crozerkeystone.org.