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The Perspective
The Perspective

January 29, 2016

Stopping the next generation of smokers

Dr. Theo Moraes, Staff Respirologist and Scientist-Track Investigator at SickKids discusses the concern with teens and e-cigarettes

A recent article in the Globe and Mail (based on an article in a very reputable medical journal; JAMA) highlights concerns with e-cigarettes,  namely that teens are using these devices at a very high rate and the use of e-cigarettes may lead to increased subsequent use of regular cigarettes.

Is anyone surprised?  For many years now, medical societies have been calling for tighter regulation of these products partly because of concerns that kids would end up using these devices.

When e-cigarettes first became available a few years back, they were hailed as a new and effective way to help people quit smoking.  And indeed, they may help some people quit. There are anecdotal reports of people who failed most therapies but could quit with e-cigarettes.  However, most of the studies that involve groups of people suggest that the effectiveness of e-cigarettes is similar to or worse than other nicotine replacement strategies such as the patch or nicotine gum.

Moreover, there are also unknown risks of inhaling various compounds into your lung. While almost anything is better than cigarettes, luckily we aren’t limited to just inhaling e-cigarettes or regular cigarettes.  Addicted people do have other choices in terms of nicotine replacement.

So if they work as well as or worse than other quit smoking aids and yet may have unknown effects, why would people use them?  Marketing, pure marketing.  

Why else would people use them if they are not even trying to quit smoking? The JAMA study reports that while 30 per cent of teens interviewed had tried e-cigarettes, only 15 per cent had used regular cigarettes. These kids aren’t trying to quit smoking.  They are just interested in trying e-cigarettes.  

As a paediatrician and respirologist this concerns me.  This is why e-cigarettes should be regulated so that if they are used, they go to those people that are actually trying to quit smoking. And not to a teen who is becoming the next generation of user for Big Tobacco.