By Ann Baker
Smokers hoping to crush out their last butt might consider weaning themselves off the habit with temporary help from e-cigarettes.
In a position statement posted to its website, the American Cancer Society says giving up combustible cigarettes is the single most important thing that a smoker can do to improve their health, even if it means using a less harmful form of tobacco product like e-cigarettes to permanently kick the habit.
That’s a welcome development for researcher Thomas Brandon, Ph.D., director of Moffitt’s Tobacco Research and Intervention Program. Brandon says several of the program’s studies are aimed at understanding the experience of smokers who take up vaping. They assess smokers’ views of e-cigarettes versus FDA-approved cessation medications like the nicotine patch.
"We are in the middle of a large national study to learn how ‘dual users’ — people who started vaping without completely quitting smoking — change over time, and if vaping helps them to eventually quit smoking altogether," says Brandon. "All of these studies, together with those from other labs, have informed my perspective that e-cigarettes represent the most important change in the landscape of tobacco use during my 36 years in this field. We need to harness this change to maximize the public health benefit from it."
The fear that vaping is just as harmful as smoking — if not more so — is a broadly held misconception that Brandon hopes to dispel. He says most of his scientific peers now agree that vaping e-cigarettes is far less harmful than smoking. The health danger of smoking is due to the smoke, not the nicotine.
He adds that, because smoking is so very dangerous, causing about 30 percent of cancer deaths and close to 500,000 premature deaths annually in the U.S. alone, the highest priority should be to quit smoking.
"Quitting smoking usually takes several serious attempts before it sticks for good," says Brandon. Smokers should not give up if they aren’t initially successful.
"They should make use of the tools available to them, including the Tobacco Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) and the seven FDA-approved medications (patch, gum, lozenge, inhaler, nasal spray, bupropion, or varenicline)."
"And yes, e-cigarettes," he notes. "Whatever works!"