FEATURE | Posted April 23, 2015

The dangers of e-cigs outweigh the benefits

Physicians should discourage vaping, according to UC Davis pulmonologists

Photo of teen using e-cigarette © iStockphoto
New research released from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014.

Research has not kept pace with the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, making it difficult for physicians to provide guidance about their safety. Sales of “vaping” devices, named for the nicotine vapor they produce, have doubled each year since 2007. New research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014.

In an opinion published online in the journal Chest, UC Davis pulmonary health specialists Mark Avdalovic and Susan Murin reviewed significant e-cigarette research and trends to help their colleagues answer the top three questions patients tend to have about e-cigs.

Here are excerpts from their article, which is available in its entirety online 

Are e-cigs gateways to traditional cigarettes?

There is recent evidence to support the validity of that concern. ... The cohort of e-cigarette users is growing, young and open to using both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products — not a group of seasoned smokers trying to quit or looking for alternatives to the traditional cigarette. The e-cigarette may well contribute to an overall increase in nicotine addiction.

Can e-cigs help smokers quit?

Many smokers have purchased these products as a way to stop smoking. Despite anecdotal reports that suggest effectiveness, there is not good evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are superior to traditional, FDA-approved approaches to smoking cessation.

Help in quitting smoking

UC Davis Health System offers an evidence-based, comprehensive approach to smoking cessation that combines education, counseling and medication with nicotine replacement therapy such as patches and gum.

For information, call UC Davis Health Management and Education at 916-734-0718 or visit livinghealthy.ucdavis.edu

Are e-cigs toxic?

The early evidence for the toxic effects of e-cigarettes is clear; they are an irritant to the airway and they have direct effects on gene expression and protein synthesis that promote airway inflammation and potential malignant transformation.

Overall, the team said current evidence points to the harmful effects of
e-cigarettes. They advocate for more research, but said waiting for outcomes shouldn’t discourage a “just say no” approach with patients considering vaping.

“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,” they concluded.