New Study Raises Doubts About Health Benefits of E-Cigarettes

By Shawn Dwyer 05/13/14

Researchers found that many e-cigarette users often use the product while still smoking regular cigarettes; the study also raised questions about claims that they're nothing more than harmless vapor.

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In a paper published on Monday, researchers declared that it is unclear whether or not e-cigarettes help smokers kick regular tobacco.

Conducted by the University of California, San Francisco, the new study was published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation and found that people who use e-cigarettes often do so in conjunction with regular combustible cigarettes, as opposed to making a full switch.

"Our bottom line is, at the moment, it doesn't seem like e-cigarettes are having a big impact on the population in terms of quitting," said Dr. Neal Benowitz, a top nicotine researcher and co-author of the UCSF review.

Over the last several years, use of e-cigarettes has exploded and has become a multi-billion dollar industry. But because they are still relatively new, little is known about the long-term health effects of a product cigarette manufacturers are labeling a smoking cessation device. What is becoming clearer, however, is that the devices are not “harmless water vapor” as some makers claim, even though e-cigs are less toxic than regular cigarettes.

"As we're getting better and better understanding of the chemistry of these things, they're looking worse and worse," said Stanton Glantz, director of UCSF’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, and co-author of the study.

As scientists and researchers learn more about the long term health effects of e-cigs, both local governments and the feds are taking action to restrict or even outright ban the devices from public spaces.

Just last month, the Food and Drug Administration made its first move to ban the sale of e-cigs to minors and requiring manufacturers to put warning labels on their product. But the FDA stopped short in not restricting TV ads and banning the sale of flavors, which generally appeal to younger vapers.

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.