Clinic: Iíve been a smoker for years. Iím thinking about
switching to electronic cigarettes or to a nicotine inhaler
because Iíve heard they arenít as bad for you as regular
cigarettes. Is that true?
cigarettes and nicotine inhalers both deliver nicotine to your
body without tobacco. But thatís where the similarity ends.
The two are quite different when it comes to how they are used
and how much doctors know about their safety. Nicotine
inhalers are a proven safe and effective way to help people
stop smoking. In contrast, very little is known about the
health effects of electronic cigarettes.
cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-operated devices that
look like regular cigarettes. Like traditional tobacco
cigarettes, they contain nicotine. When you use an
e-cigarette, a liquid inside it that includes nicotine is
heated and turns into a vapor you inhale. It also makes a
vapor cloud that looks like cigarette smoke.
manufacturers claim that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative
to tobacco cigarettes. But there are significant questions
about the safety of these products. When the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) analyzed samples of two popular
brands of e-cigarettes, they found varying amounts of nicotine
and traces of toxic chemicals, including substances that are
known to cause cancer.
inside many e-cigarettes contains a substance called propylene
glycol. It creates the e-cigaretteís vapor. Other common
uses of propylene glycol are in cosmetics and as an ingredient
in fog machines and antifreeze. The specific health effects of
this product are not clear.
No studies have
been done to examine the safety of e-cigarettes. As a result
there is no evidence that doctors can use to assess the impact
this product may have on a personís body. Also, no
convincing evidence shows that e-cigarettes are useful in
helping people to eventually stop smoking.
It is also
important to note that e-cigarettes are not regulated by the
FDA. E-cigarettes are currently regulated as a tobacco product
ó even though they contain no tobacco. Because of this
classification, there is no oversight from the FDA to ensure
they are safe. Like regular cigarettes you can buy
e-cigarettes without a prescription.
inhalers, on the other hand, are classified as a type of
medicine. They are regulated by the FDA and available by
prescription only. They fall into a class of drugs known as
nicotine replacement therapy, and they are used as part of
stop-smoking treatment plans.
e-cigarettes, nicotine inhalers give you a dose of nicotine
when you puff on them. Unlike e-cigarettes, the amount of
nicotine you receive is controlled and small. And with
nicotine inhalers you receive only nicotine. No other
ingredients are included.
inhalers have been carefully studied in controlled clinical
research trials. They are safe and proven to be effective in
helping people stop smoking. If you are interested in using
nicotine inhalers as part of a program to help you stop
smoking, talk to your doctor. He or she can discuss the
inhalers with you in more detail, as well as provide
information about other medications and resources available to
help you quit.
With the data
available now, Mayo Clinic does not recommend the use of
e-cigarettes. At this time, we simply do not know enough about
them. They have not been proven safe, nor have they been shown
to be effective in helping people to stop smoking.