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NAQC Newsroom: Research

POINT: Does the Risk of Electronic Cigarettes Exceed Potential Benefits? YES.

Monday, October 19, 2015  
Posted by: Natalia Gromov
Mark V. Avdalovic, MD, MAS; Susan Murin, MD, FCCP
POINT: Does the Risk of Electronic Cigarettes Exceed Potential Benefits? YES.
Chest. 2015; 148(3):580-582. Doi:10.1378/chest. 15-0538
The use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) continues to dramatically increase, and the debate over their safety and appropriate use has heated up in parallel. We as pulmonary clinicians are called upon to advise our patients and others about e-cigarettes, which presents challenges given the current limitations of the data upon which our advice should be based. What do we say?
There is no evidence that e-cigarettes are safe, and there is some evidence that they may in fact be harmful, both through introducing new young users to nicotine addiction and through direct effects upon the lung. It took decades for the medical community to recognize, prove, and accept that cigarettes are a major health hazard; we should not make the same error with e-cigarettes. We risk losing hard-won ground in the battle on smoking through the so-called “renormalization” of smoking that may attend the uncritical acceptance of e-cigarettes, and that is a stated goal of the e-cigarette industry. Additional research to fully understand the health effects of e-cigarettes, including among dual users of e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes, is needed. Harm-reduction arguments are only valid if we can objectively document an overall reduction in harm, at both the individual and population levels, and at present we cannot. When patients come to us and ask for guidance about the use of e-cigarettes they are expecting a response informed by data. The limited data we have at present do not demonstrate benefits exceeding known risks.

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