E-Cigarettes Unhelpful in Smoking Cessation Among Patients With Cancer

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In a new study of patients with cancer who smoke, those using e-cigarettes in addition to traditional cigarettes were more nicotine-dependent and equally or less likely to have quit smoking traditional cigarettes than nonusers.1

The rising use of e-cigarettes has raised many questions among patients and their health-care providers including whether e-cigarette use helps or hinders quitting efforts. To examine available clinical data about e-cigarette use and cessation among patients with cancer, Jamie Ostroff, PhD, of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and her colleagues studied 1,074 patients with cancer who smoked and were enrolled between 2012 and 2013 in a tobacco treatment program within a comprehensive cancer center.

Threefold Increase in Use

The researchers observed a threefold increase in e-cigarette use from 2012 to 2013 (10.6% vs 38.5%). At enrollment, e-cigarette users were more nicotine-dependent than non-users, had more prior quit attempts, and were more likely to be diagnosed with lung or head and neck cancers. At follow-up, e-cigarette users were just as likely as nonusers to be smoking. Seven-day abstinence rates were 44.4% vs 43.1% for e-cigarette users and nonusers, respectively (excluding patients who were lost to follow-up).

“Consistent with recent observations of increased e-cigarette use in the general population, our findings illustrate that e-cigarette use among tobacco-dependent cancer patients has increased within the past 2 years,” said Dr. Ostroff. She stressed that the study had several limitations, and additional studies are required.

“Controlled research is needed to evaluate the potential harms and benefits of e-cigarettes as a potential cessation approach for cancer patients. In the meantime, oncologists should advise all smokers to quit smoking traditional combustible cigarettes, encourage use of FDA-approved cessation medications, refer patients for smoking cessation counseling, and provide education about the potential risks and lack of known benefits of long-term e-cigarette use.” ■


1. Borderud SP, Li Y, Burkhalter JE, et al: Electronic cigarette use among patients with cancer. Cancer. September 22, 2104 (early release online).





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