As electronic cigarettes make huge strides to help smokers finally walk away from tobacco, the medical community is heavily divided on how to handle vaping. This week, one Philadelphia physician wrote an opinion piece on her personal view of e-cigarettes. Unfortunately, Dr. Rima Himelstein declared that electronic cigarettes received a failing grade. The saddest part of her article was the abundance of misinformation. If only this physician and many others like her would study the latest research and interview actual e-cig users, they might make a better judgment call on this vital issue. It could even save lives for their patients that are battling with cigarette addiction. Here is an overview of why Dr. Himelstein is condemning e-cigarettes along with some information that she completely overlooked in her assessment.
The article seems to focus heavily on the National Youth Tobacco Survey and we even found that Himelstein misquoted the actual data. She claimed that 1 out of 100 teens reported using an e-cig in the previous month with 3 out of 100 teens using e-cigs in the month prior to that. If you look at the actual survey, there was no data that corresponds to her claim of usage two months prior. Instead, the survey looked only at whether teens had tried an e-cigarette within the last month and then whether teens had ever used an e-cig at any point in the past.
Himelstein also presented faulty information about how e-cigarettes impact smoking cessation. She argued that these products do not help people quit smoking and are essentially no more successful than a nicotine patch. “Although e-cigarettes have been promoted to help people quit smoking, there is no scientific evidence for this claim,” she said. If the physician had done her research prior to spouting off about vaping, she would know that this simply is not true. There have actually been multiple studies on how e-cigs impact smoking cessation.
The University of Catania did a six-month study on e-cigarettes in 2011. Over the course of the trial, they followed smokers as they tried using e-cigarettes as a replacement for tobacco cigarettes. By the end of the study, nearly a quarter had completely stopped smoking and more than half of participants had reduced their cigarette use by at least 50 percent. Another important research study in 2013 also found e-cigs worked for smoking cessation. Dr. Richard Polosa focused his study on people that had no interest in quitting cigarettes. After six months of using e-cigarettes, around 9 percent had quit smoking completely even though they never wanted to quit to begin with.
Dr. Himelstein also criticizes e-cigarettes as dangerous for public health. She claims that they contain cancer causing chemicals and writes extensively about the dangers of nicotine. Somehow, she missed the fact that e-cigarettes eliminate tobacco and combustion, annihilating almost all carcinogenic effects of smoking. While there is no denying that many e-cigs contain nicotine, we also know that nicotine carries the same risks as caffeine and no one is writing articles insisting that Red Bull and Mountain Dew be pulled from the shelves.
Ultimately, Dr. Himelstein sums up her criticism of e-cigs with the most dangerous statement of all: “Using e-cigarettes can kill.” Why would a physician write this? When cigarettes kill thousands of people every year, it makes no sense to condemn the one alternative that shows promise of saving lives. At their most basic, e-cigarettes were meant to give smokers another option. They provide a way to deal with the compulsion to smoke and the nicotine addiction while instantly eliminating the deadly cancer-causing agents in tobacco cigarettes. The eliminate second-hand smoke that puts millions at risk every year. E-cigs are not the enemies, but instead they are the allies.
Why are doctors so quick to condemn e-cigarettes when there is so much evidence that they offer a life saving alternative to tobacco smoking?