Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
Thinking about trying the E-Cigarette?
Have you been tempted to try an electronic cigarette (“e-cigarette”)? Most Veterans who smoke tobacco admit they would quit if they could. Many have tried to quit without success, and are desperate to find an easier way.
E-cigarette companies claim that using e-cigarettes is safer than smoking tobacco, and can even help people quit smoking. But are these claims true?
Anatomy of an E-cigarette
E-cigarettes were invented by a Chinese company in 2004 and are mostly made in China. They come in different shapes and sizes, but all work the same way. A metal tube holds a cartridge filled with nicotine-laced liquid. Nicotine is the addictive drug in tobacco smoke. A battery powered heating coil turns the liquid into a vapor that is inhaled like tobacco smoke. Sellers of e-cigarette say it offers the feel of smoking without the tar and cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke.
Is it safe?
No one knows for sure, but there are reasons to be concerned. The liquid in the cartridges is propylene glycol (PEG), which is sometimes used in foods to keep them moist. But scientists do not know if PEG is safe when heated and inhaled into the lungs. Other studies found at least 10 chemicals in the
e-cigarette vapor that are known to cause cancer. Finally, the heated metal in the e-cigarette can release very tiny metal particles that enter deep into the lungs. The Federal Drug Administration is still studying the short and long term risks of e-cigarettes.
Can it help me quit smoking?
E-cigarettes are not recommended to help people quit smoking. They can actually make you more addicted for at least two reasons. First, people often use e-cigarettes where they cannot light up, so overall they are getting more nicotine through the day. Second, people who use e-cigarettes are still “practicing” the habit of smoking. Breaking the “habit” part of the addiction is a big part of the challenge when quitting tobacco. E-cigarettes strengthen the habit and make it harder to quit in the long run.
What are my options?
Truman VA offers programs that are proven to help Veterans quit tobacco, without wasting money on e-cigarettes. Veterans learn about their addiction and create a individualized plan to quit tobacco and stay quit.
Ask your VA health care provider about the VA Quit Program,
or call Dr. Joe Hinkebein at 573-814-6216.
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