E-cigarettes do not help smokers quit, according to a new analysis that flies in the face of "e-cig" promotional material labeling them as safe and effective cessation devices.
The research is the second cautionary study in recent weeks to emerge from the Center for Tobacco Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco. Earlier this month, the center's head, Dr. Stanton Glantz, found in a study of thousands of youths that the addictive nicotine in e-cigs may lure teens to more potent sources of the substance.
Now, Drs. Pamela Ling and Rachel Grana, also researchers at the center, have found that smokers who used them found they were not helpful in stopping the urge to smoke.
"We looked at a national panel of smokers and examined whether they were more likely to quit with electronic cigarettes or less likely at one-year follow up." Grana said Monday, referring to her national sample of more than 900 smokers, 88 of whom were trying to quit using e-cigarettes.
"We found there were no differences in rates of quitting between those who used electronic cigarettes and those who did not," Grana said. The findings are reported in Monday's edition of JAMA Internal Medicine.
Patricia Folan, director of the North Shore-LIJ Center for Tobacco Control in Great Neck, where smokers attend sessions to kick the habit, said she is not surprised by the study's results.
"We don't use them and we don't recommend them," Folan said Monday of electronic cigarettes. "They haven't been regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and there really is not much research on their effectiveness to stop people from smoking.
"The patients we've seen use them while they are smoking tend to use them in places where cigarettes are not allowed. But even that is becoming more difficult because in Suffolk County electronic cigarettes are covered under the same bans as cigarettes," Folan said.
Popular yet controversial, e-cigs are formally known as electronic nicotine delivery systems and in recent years have been at the center of a stormy public health debate.
The American Council on Science and Health, a Manhattan-based nonprofit, is a leading advocate for electronic cigarettes. This month, the group's executive director of consumer education, Dr. Gilbert Ross, criticized e-cigarette's detractors, including major health organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.
He told Newsday the devices are safe and effective at helping to stop smoking. Ross' organization, however, tends to endorse many chemical industry safety claims.
In a policy statement, the American Lung Association reports being "very concerned about the potential safety and health consequences of electronic cigarettes, as well as claims that they can be used to help smokers quit."American Cancer Society policy experts write "the makers of e-cigarettes say that the ingredients are safe, but inhaling a substance is not the same as swallowing it.
"There are questions about how safe it is to inhale some substances in the e-cigarette vapor into the lungs," according to the cancer society.