What should health professionals know about electronic cigarettes?
Response from Darrell Hulisz, PharmD
Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine; Clinical Specialist in Family Medicine, University Hospitals, Case Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery devices, are becoming a popular alternative to cigarette smoking. Sold at mall kiosks, on the Internet, and at some convenience stores, electronic cigarettes allow the user to consume nicotine by simulating cigarette smoking without producing second-hand smoke. An electronic cigarette, which resembles a metallic cigarette, contains flavored, liquefied nicotine encased in a plastic cartridge that is placed into a battery-operated device. When the smoker actuates the button, a vaporized puff of nicotine is released to be inhaled. Despite the seemingly growing popularity of electronic cigarettes, several countries, including Canada, Australia, and Brazil, have banned them.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings about the lack of scientific and clinical trial data to support the safety of electronic cigarettes. Yet, many reasons are offered for the use of these devices. According to an Internet survey of 3587 electronic cigarette users:
- 84% of those surveyed perceived e-cigarettes to be less toxic than tobacco smoke;
- 77% used them as a smoking cessation tool or to prevent relapse;
- 79% used them to deal with cravings; and
- 67% used them to deal with withdrawal symptoms.