E-cigarettes unhelpful for cancer patients, study suggests

Man smoking e-cigarette, which is not a reliable smoking cessation aid, according to cancer research

The effectiveness of electronic cigarettes as an aid to quit smoking has been cast in doubt after research published in Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society (online, 22 September 2014)[1]

Researchers monitored 1,074 people enrolled in a quit programme at a cancer centre in the United States and found that e-cigarette users were as likely to be smoking at the time of follow-up as non-users (44.1% versus 43.1% respectively).

Furthermore, the e-cigarette user group were more nicotine dependent (51.8% versus 32.2%), had tried to quit more often (76.5% reporting at least two attempts to give up compared to 66.7% of non-users) and were more likely to be diagnosed with cancer of the head, neck or lung (36.2% versus 27%) than those who did not use e-cigarettes. Nicotine dependence was assessed using the Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence (FTND), a 6-item scale with scores ranging from 0 to 10, with scores of 0 to 4 coded as indicating lower nicotine dependence and scores of 5 indicating higher nicotine dependence.

The study authors say their findings raise doubts about the usefulness of e-cigarettes in helping patients with cancer to quit. They conclude that quit services should focus on regulator-approved aids and counselling and urge advice be issued on the potential risk and lack of proven benefits of e-cigarette use. 



[1] Borderud SP, Li Y, Burkhalter JE et al. Electronic Cigarette Use Among Patients With Cancer: Characteristics of Electronic Cigarette Users and Their Smoking Cessation Outcomes. Cancer 2014. doi: 10.1002/cncr.28811 (accessed 24 September 2014).

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 4 October 2014, Vol 293, No 7830;293(7830):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.20066563

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