Electronic cigarettes: do they have a role in smoking cessation?
Electronic cigarettes have gained popularity among patients as a smoking cessation aid despite not being approved or supported for this purpose by the United States Food and Drug Administration due to concerns with poor manufacturing practices and the presence of known carcinogens in the limited products that they tested. A few studies have evaluated the effects of electronic cigarettes on plasma nicotine levels and heart rate but found negligible effects. Safety data are mainly limited to surveys in which patients report only minor side effects, such as mouth and throat irritation, headache, vertigo, and nausea. The efficacy of electronic cigarettes has been evaluated in studies in which patients report great success with being able to cut back or stop tobacco cigarette consumption. However, many of these studies introduce bias due to recruiting on e-cigarette Web sites and having tobacco cigarette use self-reported by the participant rather than objectively tested. A few studies have formally evaluated nicotine craving when using electronic cigarettes with mixed results. Although patients support the use of electronic cigarettes in smoking cessation, more formal studies on safety and efficacy should be completed in order to determine whether these products have a role in smoking cessation.