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What Should You Tell Your Patients about E-Cigarette Use?


The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that about 12 percent of adult Americans have tried the e-cigarette, and 3.7 percent of the population is now using e-cigarettes regularly. Up until now, clinicians have been generally uncertain about the health effects of e-cigarettes. This article explores findings from a huge consensus report published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that analyzes the use of e-cigarettes and their potential side effects. What should clinicians know about e-cigarettes to keep their patients correctly informed?

Addiction Treatment and E-Cigarette Use

Medical News Today reported on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report that looked at more than 800 studies related to e-cigarette consumption. The study sought to address some of the most basic questions related to e-cigarette use. These included:
  • What are the short and long-term health effects of e-cigarettes?
  • Do e-cigarettes help adults quit smoking, or are they the potential gateway for teenagers into addiction to “regular” cigarettes?
  • How do usage patterns of e-cigarettes affect the casual user of these drugs?
They found that e-cigarettes are potentially harmful, but also have some potential benefits that might surprise clinicians. For example, there is evidence that e-cigarettes are harmful.
  • The study tracked conclusive evidence that the chemicals found in e-cigarettes are toxic and potentially cancerous.
  • The nicotine transmitted to the adult user is about the same.
  • Just like in traditional cigarettes, the e-cigarette causes an increase in heart rate and has been shown to cause DNA damage. This is primarily from the induction of formaldehyde and acrolein into these products.
Yet there is also evidence that shows e-cigarettes may actually offer a benefit to the user, albeit in some cases, this is only a small advantage over traditional cigarettes:
  • First, the study found that e-cigarettes are potentially less cancer-causing than traditional tobacco products.
  • Next, the report concluded that there is insufficient evidence to connect e-cigarettes with human respiratory diseases.
  • The study cited research showing e-cigarettes do appear to cause coughing and asthma, particularly in teenagers.
  • Interestingly, the study also found a small amount of evidence pointing to a reduction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in adults who switch from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes.
  • There is currently insufficient evidence as to whether e-cigarette use is linked to negative pregnancy outcomes.
Addiction treatment This study sought to determine consensus around the use of e-cigarettes, in part, so the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could issue guidelines and potential warnings around their use. However, it seems that the review committee found as many questions as they did answers in the current research. It does seem that e-cigarettes may be, as popular opinion suggests, safer than traditional tobacco products. Yet the user is still exposed to the harmful effects of the chemical components of the drug. The bottom line is that, if patients are struggling to quit traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes may help. This does not mitigate their harmful effects, which may include cancer. It is clear that more research needs to be done. Because e-cigarettes are a relatively new phenomenon in the marketplace, time will ultimately show the effect e-cigarettes have on addiction treatment patients. Are you looking for an accredited treatment program for your patients suffering from substance use disorders? Contact us to find out more about referring patients to our facilities.
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