As electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have become more mainstream, the confusion around them has increased.
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have been the subject of debate in the public health community for the last few years.
Patient myths about e-cigarettes
"E-cigarettes don’t contain nicotine." "E-cigarettes don’t contain any chemicals." "E-cigarettes can help you quit smoking." All these claims are false, yet some patients believe them. If you are looking to help them understand the truth about e-cigarettes, you can read and refer them to this article aimed at patients and the general public in our Newsroom, 6 Myths About E-Cigarettes.
Limited evidence on smoking cessation
There is limited evidence that e-cigarettes are effective as a smoking cessation tool. Some argue they have a role in harm reduction and are a safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes. This summer, the National Health Services (NHS) in the UK took a controversial stance and issued a report stating that e-cigarettes are up to 95 per cent safer than tobacco cigarettes, pose no threat to bystanders and should be considered a low-cost and effective smoking cessation tool. While the NHS has moved forward with several of its recommendations and has changed its approach to how it offers smoking cessation support, the evidence and authorship of this paper has been questioned, and most health organizations are waiting for more conclusive research.
More harm reduction studies needed
A recent Cochrane review of 24 studies (three randomized controlled trials and 21 follow-up cohort studies) examined the effectiveness of e-cigarettes in abstaining from smoking. A meta-analysis of two trials concluded that participants using an e-cigarette containing nicotine were more likely to abstain from smoking for six months compared to participants using a placebo e-cigarette. The one study comparing e-cigarettes to the nicotine patch found no significant difference in six month abstinence rates. None of the studies reviewed reported serious adverse events, but complaints of mouth and throat irritation were documented. With small sample sizes and non-rigorous methods, this review confirms that more evidence is needed before we embrace e-cigarettes as a harm reduction approach for smoking cessation. It will be interesting to see the results of several pending studies comparing nicotine replacement therapy with electronic cigarettes.
Fraser Health prohibits the use of e-cigarettes
Until more is known about the effects of e-cigarettes, Fraser Health is using the precautionary principle and prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in all owned and operated facilities and on all our properties. This will ensure that all of our patients, clients, residents and caregivers are protected from the known and unknown risks of these devices in a supportive smoke-free environment.
Follow us on Twitter and Facebook all January during our smoke-free campaign to learn more about patient and employee resources for smoking cessation.