Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have been publicized as smoking cessation aids, even though there has been no solid scientific evidence to back up this type of marketing pitch, with the FDA not approving them as safe or effective, and proposing a regulation on this type of cigarettes for the first time this year.
Even though e-cigarettes have become increasingly popular among smokers, their risks remain unknown.
In a recent study published in the Cancer Journal, a group of researchers found that in cancer patients who smoke, those using e-cigarettes (in addition to traditional cigarettes) were more nicotine dependent and equally or less likely to quit smoking traditional cigarettes than non-users, leading authors to question the benefits of e-cigarettes in helping cancer patients to quit smoking.
Jamie Ostroff, PhD, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and her colleagues, analyzed 1,074 cancer patients who smoked and were enrolled between 2012 and 2013 in a tobacco treatment program.
The results from the study revealed an increase in e-cigarette use from 2012 (10.6%) to 2013 (38.%).
Furthermore, when patients enrolled in the study, those who smoked e-cigarettes were more nicotine dependent than those who didn’t, had more prior quit attempts, and were more likely to be diagnosed with lung or head and neck cancers.
At the time of follow-up, e-cigarette users has the same probability as non-users to be smoking, with 7-day abstinence rates of 44.4% for e-cigarette users and 43.1% for non-users.
“Consistent with recent observations of increased e-cigarette use in the general population, our findings illustrate that e-cigarette use among tobacco-dependent cancer patients has increased within the past two years,” said Dr. Ostroff in a Wiley press release. “Controlled research is needed to evaluate the potential harms and benefits of e-cigarettes as a potential cessation approach for cancer patients. In the meantime, oncologists should advise all smokers to quit smoking traditional combustible cigarettes, encourage use of FDA-approved cessation medications, refer patients for smoking cessation counseling, and provide education about the potential risks and lack of known benefits of long-term e-cigarette use.”