Not enough evidence that e-cigarettes help to stop smoking, surgeon general says

E-cigarettes have been promoted as a way to help smokers stop smoking, but the scientific evidence is not sufficient to support this claim. It is known that e-cigarettes are a gateway to tobacco for many youths.

On Thursday, Surgeon-General Jerome Adams referenced this earlier evidence when speaking about the 2020 report by the Surgeon-General on tobacco. The report, the 34th in total, is the first to address smoking cessation specifically.

The report is released in the middle of a heated discussion about flavored electronic cigarettes, which health officials claim are appealing to children. The Food and Drug Administration banned nearly all flavored electronic cigarette products in early January. This ban did not include menthol or tobacco-flavored pods.

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Adams, at a press conference on Thursday, urged the public to concentrate on what research has revealed about e-cigarettes.

Adams explained that the studies that have been done on e-cigarettes and their ability to help people quit smoking are specific. These findings cannot be applied to all e-cigarettes.

Adams stated that while the research was ultimately not sufficient to conclude whether e-cigarettes were an effective tool to quit smoking, he encouraged companies to submit FDA applications for e-cigarettes as cessation aids.

According to the report, 70 percent of smokers want to stop smoking, and over half of them try it every year.

Many smokers are unaware of the tools available to them.

Adams suggested several proven approaches to quitting smoking. Combining FDA-approved medication with behavioral counseling doubles the rate of success in quitting. Text messages and web-based services are also available to help you quit smoking.

The report highlighted the many benefits of quitting smoking: You can live ten more years, reduce your risk of lung disease and 12 types of cancer, and have a healthier pregnancy and fertility. The report stated that smoking is responsible for one in five deaths in America and remains the leading cause of preventable death, illness, and disability. Thirty-four million Americans smoke cigarettes.

CORRECTION(Jan. 23, 2019, 10:03 pm ET): A previous version of this article misinterpreted, in the headline and first paragraph, a statement by the surgeon general on the link between e-cigarettes and tobacco use. The headline and the first paragraph of a previous version of this piece misinterpreted a statement made by the surgeon-general on the relationship between e-cigarettes and tobacco. He stated that many young people start using tobacco by using e-cigarettes, and not that e-cigarettes cause people to begin smoking. The surgeon general’s statement about adult smokers wanting to quit tobacco e-cigarettes was also misinterpreted. He was talking about companies having access to FDA regulations and not just access.

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