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Lately, there’s been a huge debate about the effectiveness of e-cigarettes. One side, namely scientists, health professionals and researchers, are arguing for more conclusive evidence to show their effectiveness while others are saying they offer much needed help for smokers. Who do we believe?
In the UK alone, an estimated 2.1 million people use e-cigarettes. These battery-powered devices allow smokers to inhale nicotine but avoid the symptoms caused by tobacco smoke.
A recent study found e-cigarettes were not helping cancer patients to quit the habit. The researchers observed 1,074 cancer patients, who were registered as part of a tobacco treatment program at a comprehensive cancer centre between 2012-2013. Within this time, the researchers discovered a sharp increase in e-cigarette use from 10.6% to 38.5% in patients.
The research revealed that e-cigarette users are more dependent on nicotine. They have made more attempts to quit and are more likely to develop lung, neck and head cancers, which are closely linked to smoking tobacco. However, considering the subjects were cancer patients, the likelihood of them having developed smoking-related cancers was obviously higher.
During the follow up studies, the e-cigarette users were found to be just as likely to still be smoking as non-users.
Some experts have been quick to call the study into question. Professor Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University, London, noted: “the authors followed up smokers who tried e-cigarettes but did not stop smoking, and excluded smokers who tried e-cigarettes and stopped smoking.” You can’t get any more biased than that.
Director of tobacco research at University College London, Professor Robert West, also criticised the sample of patients, adding “the sample could consist of e-cigarette users who had already failed in a quit attempt, so those who would have succeeded would already be ruled out.”
According to Doctor James Ostroff, a gastroenterologist, at UCSF Medical Center, “controlled research is needed” to monitor the potential harms and benefits of e-cigarettes as a cessation aid for cancer patients. He too acknowledged the study has its limitations, so for now he has made the following suggestions: “oncologists should advise all smokers to quite smoking traditional combustible cigarettes, encourage use of FDS-approved cessation medications and refer patients for smoking cessation counselling.”
On the surface, they appear to be far better than smoking. What do you think? Nothing can be as bad as inhaling tar and other dangerous chemicals found in tobacco. So surely it’s a good thing if smokers are using this product to fight their habit. Moreover, as e-cigarettes are less harmful to the body and environment, there’s a far lower risk to bystanders of toxic emissions. And another plus: there’s no lingering smell from e-cigarettes like there is with cigarettes.
Others have argued e-cigarettes have a few of the same harmful chemicals of cigarettes, namely nicotine. For them, the open advertising of e-cigarettes can glamorise smoking. As the majority of smokers start smoking before the age of 18, young teenagers are supposedly more susceptible to such advertising. They go on to claim there is some health risk to bystanders via harmful emissions, as with normal cigarettes. What side of the debate are you on?