Should People Who Can't Quit Smoking Switch to E-Cigarettes?

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While the lifesaving potential of e-cigarettes hypothesized in the study is promising, it'll hardly be the last word in an ongoing and ever growing debate about the benefits or harms of e-cigarettes.

"The best studies to date indicate that the most popular forms of e-cigarettes have a small fraction of the cancer-causing and other toxic chemicals that are ingested with cigarettes", said Levy. He stressed that the regulatory framework for e-cigarettes "must be different from regulation of tobacco cigarettes; otherwise, people may be deceived into thinking that e-cigarettes are the same as tobacco cigarettes". "Tar refers to the combustion products of cigarettes produced by the burning of organic matter, dried tobacco leaf, something which is not present in e-cigarettes".

Using mathematical models, researchers calculated how two possible scenarios of cigarette and e-cigarette use - one optimistic scenario and one pessimistic scenario - could impact public health if Americans who smoked cigarettes switched to e-cigarettes over the next 10 years.

That research, published today in the journal Tobacco Control, is the first to model prospective health outcomes based on a hypothetical situation in which cigarette use is largely replaced by e-cigarettes over a 10-year period.

That adds up to 86.7 million cumulative years of life saved, as estimated by the new research from Georgetown University Medical Center.

Does it help people quit and does it encourage young people to take up smoking?

However, the vapor-emitting, battery-powered devices remain unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Starting next month, major US cigarette companies will publish a series of statements about the health risks of smoking.

Cigarette smoking would decline to 5 percent of the US population as e-cigarettes become the more popular option, down from the current 16 percent.

A research fellow at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center and University of Patras in Greece, Farsalinos has been conducting research on e-cigarettes as principal investigator since 2011.

'My hope is that this study leads to a more objective approach by realizing that e-cigarettes, even under a worst case scenario, could lead to public health gains, if we can determine how to promote the use of e-cigarettes in a way that reduces smoking without substantially increasing e-cigarette use'.

Nevertheless, both scenarios predicted that millions of former smokers would live many more years thanks to e-cigarettes.

Altria Group Inc., the Richmond, Virginia-based parent company of cigarette-maker Philip Morris USA, will jointly run the ads with its competitor, Reynolds American Inc., and several other companies. "The FDA commissioner explicitly stated about two months ago that e-cigs will be a prime component of tobacco control strategies here on". In other words, switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes could extend the lives of smokers, compared with if they were to continue smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes.

"As a pulmonologist, the idea that tobacco could be outlawed is so appealing to me", DePalo said. "If they were regulated by the FDA, maybe that deal is one we want to make".

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