A man with a vape device
Man with a vape pen.

With e-cigarettes more common than ever, researchers struggle to keep up with changes in the industry. It’s such a fast-growing trend, and there are many different types of devices on the market, says Matthew Carpenter, Ph.D., who is co-leader of the Cancer Control Program at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center.

While growing research suggests that e-cigarettes can help established adult smokers quit, there are at least two population trends that are causing concern, Carpenter says.

One is that the use of e-cigarettes among adolescents is increasing. The latest numbers show that the use of these devices has increased among teens and young adults. “These numbers are trending upward, and there is great concern that we could have a new generation of people addicted to nicotine. Under no circumstances should kids and nonsmokers use these devices.”

Second, recent incidents of pulmonary disease among people using e-devices raise concerns. “We do not yet know what is causing these incidents, since there isn’t one device or product that is common to all. Early evidence suggests that contaminants in the liquid, sometimes obtained from questionable sources, could be a factor. The CDC is a great source for the most recent information on these events,” Carpenter says, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So where does this leave a smoker who is either using e-cigarettes or would like to?

All smokers should quit, by whatever means works for them. Combustible cigarette smoking kills half of all users. There are a number of FDA-approved cessation medications with solid evidence in support of that are both safe and effective, he says. E-cigarettes, though clearly not safe, are at least safer than cigarette smoking over the long term, for established smokers, he says.

Carpenter recommends smokers take advantage of smoking cessation services at the Hollings Cancer Center, led by Benjamin Toll, Ph.D. “It’s a great place for smokers to get the best, most up-to-date evidence and support to help them quit.”

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