Cigarettes? Vapor? How about neither

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Tomorrow is The Great American Smokeout so I will say, unequivocally, that if you use tobacco products you should start to quit. Tomorrow is a good day for that. “By quitting, even for one day, smokers will be taking an important step towards a healthier life,” the American Cancer Society says on their website.

So, you know you should stop smoking; we don’t need to belabor that fact. The question is how to quit? Your best resource is your primary healthcare provider. There is a lot of information about nicotine patches and gum, prescription drugs and, more recently, electronic cigarettes. There are varied opinions about each one, so you should do your research.

When I did a quick search for “e-cigarettes” as a quit-smoking aid, I found a study that was conducted in September of 2013 analyzed by Stacy Simon of ACS.

“The trial included 657 smokers who wanted to quit. For three months, 289 of the participants received e-cigarettes, 295 received nicotine patches, and 73 received placebo e-cigarettes, which contained no nicotine. The researchers then followed the participants for three more months to determine whether they had quit smoking. They found that 7.3 percent of those in the e-cigarette group had successfully quit smoking, compared with 5.8 percent in the nicotine patch group and 4.1 percent in the placebo e-cigarette group. The differences in results are not statistically significant, meaning each group had about an equal chance of quitting.

“However, the e-cigarette users who did not quit completely reported smoking fewer cigarettes at the end of the trial. The study’s authors interpret this as a positive outcome, because harms from smoking are generally related to the number of cigarettes smoked as well as number of years smoking.”

However, the article continues to caution that e-cigarettes are currently not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but that they intend to do so in the near future. So I paid a visit to the FDA’s website. They’re concerned about the safety of the products and how they’re marketed to the public — particularly to our youth.

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SMOKING

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Top of the list of concerns is that e-cigarettes can increase nicotine addiction among young people and lead them to try tobacco products that they might not have otherwise. That’s not good. They also say that the products may contain ingredients that are toxic to humans and until further studies are done they won’t know the long-term effects of using vapor.

In an article published by WebMD, they say that what bothers all the health experts that they interviewed is that “there’s no proof that e-cigarettes don’t cause long-term harm.”

“Rather than quit, e-cigarettes might worsen users’ nicotine habits,” says Michael Eriksen, ScD, director of the institute of public health at Atlanta’s Georgia State University and former director of CDC’s office of smoking and health.

“I have seen no evidence that people switch from tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes or other smokeless tobacco products,” Eriksen said. “If you look at how smokeless products are marketed, they are sold as something to use at times you can’t smoke. The implication is you will increase nicotine exposure, not reduce smoking. We’ll just be encouraging people to use more nicotine.”

For me, the defining article was written by Thomas J. Glynn, PhD on ACS’s website. He said that he’s been following the discussion on e-cigarettes from the beginning and that three years ago he wrote that “e-cigarettes have been described both as a miracle answer to the devastating effects of cigarette smoking and as a grave danger to the public health.”

Now he writes that after more than 1,000 research papers, commentaries and opinion pieces he has concluded that “e-cigarettes continue to be described both as a miracle answer to the devastating effects of cigarette smoking and as a grave danger to the public health; that they remain a source of controversy; and that more independent, objective data are needed.”

You figure it out! But my advice, if you want it, is to quit using all nicotine products and live longer.

Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Committee. She can be reached at 264-4029 or kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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