Thursday, September 18, 2014

E-cigarettes Help Smokers Quit

Say what you want about e-cigarettes, but the fact is that they work better than other methods at helping smokers quit on their own. According to a study just published in Addiction, smokers who choose e-cigarettes are more likely report that they have quit smoking than smokers who try to quit based on willpower alone and smokers who use nicotine replacement therapy products such as the nicotine patch.

And there’s the conundrum for regulators. On the one hand, they need to support regulations that keep e-cigarettes widely available, because if current smokers choose to use them and thereby ultimately quit smoking cigarettes, lives will be saved. On the other hand, they don’t want e-cigarettes to become too popular, especially among the young or people who have never smoked. The end result could be a lot of people who become nicotine addicts without ever having smoked cigarettes. And while e-cigarettes are thought to be much safer than cigarettes and probably don’t increase the risk of cancer, who wants a whole new generation of nicotine addicts? And how safe are e-cigarettes, anyway? It may be years before we know.

I expect regulators (the FDA) to focus on how e-cigarettes are marketed, and to develop regulations that try to prevent e-cigarettes from becoming too popular with young non-smokers. But of course, that’s precisely the market that manufacturers would like to reach, because it's a much larger market than just current smokers who seriously wish to quit. Regulators versus manufacturers - it’s the battle over the marketing of cigarettes all over again.

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