Electronic cigarettes in North America: history, use, and implications for smoking cessation

Caroline Franck, Talia Budlovsky, Sarah B Windle, Kristian B Filion, Mark J Eisenberg
Circulation 2014 May 13, 129 (19): 1945-52

BACKGROUND: Designed to mimic the look and feel of tobacco cigarettes, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) may facilitate smoking cessation. However, the efficacy and safety of e-cigarette use for this purpose remain poorly understood. Our objectives were to review the available data on the efficacy and safety of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation and to consider issues relevant to the context in which they are used, including product awareness and regulatory and ethical concerns.

METHODS AND RESULTS: We systematically searched PubMed for randomized controlled trials and uncontrolled, experimental studies involving e-cigarettes. Included studies were limited to English or French language reports. Quality assessment was performed according to the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool. We identified 169 publications, of which 7 studies were included. Studies have concluded that e-cigarettes can help reduce the number of cigarettes smoked and may be as effective for smoking cessation as the nicotine patch. Although there is a lack of data concerning the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation therapy, available evidence showed no significant difference in adverse event rates between e-cigarettes and the nicotine patch. E-cigarettes are widely used among smokers attempting to quit. However, significant international variation remains in the regulatory mechanisms governing the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes. Ethical concerns surround the use of e-cigarettes among minors and their potential to undermine efforts to reduce cigarette smoking.

CONCLUSION: Given the limited available evidence on the risks and benefits of e-cigarette use, large, randomized, controlled trials are urgently needed to definitively establish their potential for smoking cessation.

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