Can e-cigarettes help you stop smoking?

Hidden Risks
Health professionals suggest smokers use products that are known effective, such as the nicotine patch, to help them quit smoking.
Health professionals suggest smokers use products that are known effective, such as the nicotine patch, to help them quit smoking.
Stockbyte/Getty Images

Opponents of electronic cigarette use for smoking cessation have one central concern: the lack of testing and research to show that the product is effective and safe. Even though e-cigarette users are not breathing in smoke, they are still inhaling nicotine, an addictive substance. And it's nicotine in a liquid form, which organizations like the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association say has not been adequately tested for safety [source: WHO and AMA]. Health experts are concerned that users of e-cigarettes may be misled into thinking they're making a safe choice, when in fact the effects of inhaling nicotine vapor, particularly over the long term, are still unknown.

Regulatory and health agencies say that e-cigarettes may actually be doing a disservice to people who want to quit smoking, because smokers may choose these untested devices instead of one that has been proven effective, such as the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge or a nasal spray. They also worry that people will increase their overall nicotine consumption, because e-cigarettes can often be used in places like offices, malls, restaurants and even hospitals [source: WHO].

In September 2010, the FDA took action against five electronic cigarette companies -- including E-CigaretteDirect, Ruyan America and Johnson's Creek Enterprises -- on the grounds that they were in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) [source: FDA]. Violations the FDA cited included unsubstantiated claims about the device and poor manufacturing processes. However, the FDA is willing to work with e-cigarette companies to conduct the research needed to prove the devices are effective and safe [source: FDA]. The "let the buyer beware" philosophy certainly applies to electronic cigarettes: Cautious consumers may want to monitor ongoing developments and hold off on trying the device until more evidence is available.

Related Articles


  • Demick, Barbara. "A High-Tech Approach to Getting a Nicotine Fix." Los Angeles Times. April 25, 2009 (Sept. 3, 2010)
  • "Johnny Depp Vapes an Electronic Cigarette on 'The Tourist.'" Dec. 15, 2010. (Jan. 5, 2011)
  • Elliott, Debbie. "The New Frontier in War on Smoking." NPR. Aug. 5, 2009 (Jan. 5, 2011)
  • FDA. "FDA Acts Against 5 Electronic Cigarette Distributors," Sept. 9, 2010 (Dec. 3, 2010)
  • Felberbaum, Michael. "E-smokes gaining steam amid calls for a ban." Associated Press. Sept. 1, 2010. (Sept. 3, 2010)
  • Hunter, Aina. "Katherine Heigl Smoke Sticks: Are They Bad For You?" Sept. 29, 2010. (Jan. 4, 2011)
  • Hurt, Richard D. "Electronic Cigarettes: A Safe Way to Light Up?" Mayo Clinic. Dec. 1, 2009. (Sept. 3, 2010)
  • Kesmodel, David, and Yadron, Danny. "E-Cigarettes Spark New Smoking War." Wall Street Journal. Aug. 25, 2010. (Sept. 3, 2010)
  • McLean, Mike. "A New Potential Market Lights Up." Journal of Business. Feb. 11, 2010. (Sept. 3, 2010);col1
  • Smoking Everywhere Inc. and Sottera Inc. d/b/a NJOY v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Jan. 14, 2010.
  • Sorrel, Amy Lynn. "Judge: E-cigarettes not subject to FDA oversight as drug delivery device." American Medical Association. Feb. 15, 2010. (Sept. 3, 2010)
  • WHO. "Makers of electronic cigarettes should halt unproved therapy claims." Sept. 19, 2009. (Sept. 3, 2010)
  • Zezima, Kate. "Analysis Finds Toxic Substances in Electronic Cigarettes."
  • New York Times. July 22, 2009. (Sept 3, 2010)

More to Explore