E-Cigarettes Do Not Help Lower Nicotine Dependency Among Cancer Patients

First Posted: Sep 22, 2014 04:11 AM EDT

Researchers have found that the use of e-cigarettes by cancer patients does not help lower nicotine dependency.

Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes are promoted as smoking cessation aids, even though the FDA has not approved them as a safe or effective method to help quit smoking. This year, the FDA has proposed regulating e-cigarettes for the first time. Although the use of e-cigarettes is rising among teens and adults, its risks remain unknown.

E-cigarettes are highlighted as a safer alternative to tobacco, but the latest peer-reviewed journal revealed that cancer patients who smoke, using e-cigarettes along with traditional cigarettes are more likely to be nicotine dependent and are less likely to quit smoking traditional cigarettes when compared to the non-users.

The latest finding brings to light the doubts centered around the potential benefits of e-cigarettes to help cancer patients give up smoking.

"Consistent with recent observations of increased e-cigarette use in the general population, our findings illustrate that e-cigarette use among tobacco-dependent cancer patients has increased within the past two years," said Dr. Jamie Ostroff, of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Cancer patients are advised to quit smoking due to the risks involved in persistent smoking. But the rising popularity of the e-cigarettes has raised safety concerns among patients as well as healthcare providers on whether the use of e-cigarettes helps or obstructs the person's efforts.

In this study, the researchers evaluated the clinical data about e-cigarette use as well as cessation among cancer patients. They looked at 1074 cancer patients who smoked and were enrolled between 2012 and 2013, and were a part of the tobacco treatment program within a comprehensive cancer center.

They noticed a three-fold increase in the use of e-cigarette from 2012-2013. At the beginning of the study, the e-cigarette users were highly dependent on nicotine when compared to the non-users and had several prior quit attempts. Apart from these, they were more vulnerable to be diagnosed with lung or head and neck cancers. 

During the follow-up, it was observed that the e-cigarette users - similar to the non-users - were more likely to be smoking. Among e-cigarette users, the seven day abstinence rate was 44.4 percent and for non-users it was 43.1 percent.

"Controlled research is needed to evaluate the potential harms and benefits of e-cigarettes as a potential cessation approach for cancer patients. In the meantime, oncologists should advise all smokers to quit smoking traditional combustible cigarettes, encourage use of FDA-approved cessation medications, refer patients for smoking cessation counseling, and provide education about the potential risks and lack of known benefits of long-term e-cigarette use ," said Dr. Ostroff.

The finding is documented in the Cancer, journal of the American Cancer Society.

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