E-cigarettes: potential benefits, harms

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E-cigarettes may help reduce smokers’ exposure to toxins, but they also may cause harm, according to Vaughan Rees, deputy director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control at Harvard School of Public Health.

Interviewed on KUOW (Puget Sound Public Radio) on October 2, 2013, Rees said that while e-cigarettes do contain some toxic compounds, they have far less than conventional cigarettes, and so have the potential to be safer. However, because e-cigarettes are not as pleasurable as regular cigarettes, “we may find that regular smokers don’t actually switch completely to an e-cigarette, but just use both products,” Rees said. And because e-cigarettes have lower addictive potential than conventional cigarettes, “they actually could encourage younger users to begin using nicotine products, which might then encourage them to switch later on to regular tobacco cigarettes.”

Rees said there’s little evidence showing that e-cigarettes help people quit smoking. “There are better medications or other strategies available for people who want to quit than e-cigarettes,” he said.