Study: E-cigarettes don't help cancer patients stop smoking

E-cigarettes may not be as helpful as originally thought. A new study from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center reveals cancer patients who use e-cigarettes are less likely or only equally likely to quit smoking compared to people who do not use e-cigarettes.

Published in the journal CANCER, researchers found that two-thirds of smokers continue to smoke even after a cancer diagnosis. E-cigarettes are still relatively new, so it’s unclear if they are harmful or how much they help people looking to quit.

From 2012 to 2013, researchers analyzed 1,074 smokers who were also cancer patients in a tobacco treatment program at a cancer center. Patients who used e-cigarettes during this time jumped from 10.6 percent to 38.5 percent. At the beginning of the study, e-cigarette users were more nicotine dependent, attempted quitting more often, and more likely to develop head, neck or lung cancers than people who do not use e-cigarettes.

When following up with the patients, the study findings show e-cigarette users were just as likely as cigarette users to still be smoking. The rates of quitting smoking for seven days were pretty comparable: 44.4 percent in e-cigarette users and 43.1 percent in cigarette users. They also found e-cigarette users were twice as likely as non-users to smoke traditional cigarettes.

Overall, using e-cigarettes was not connected with increased smoking cessation or as a means for cancer patients to quit smoking. It is noted, however, this study does not mean e-cigarettes won’t help patients quit in the future. More research is needed to determine the risks and benefits of e-cigarettes. One researcher noted oncologists should still encourage patients to quit smoking through government-approved cessation tools, counseling, and also provide information on e-cigarettes.

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