E-cigarettes do not help smokers quit: experts

10/16/2019 10:18 PM
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Pixabay image for illustrative purpose only
Pixabay image for illustrative purpose only

Taipei, Oct. 16 (CNA) Taiwanese medical experts said Wednesday that e-cigarettes do little to help smokers quit and instead encourage people to smoke tobacco cigarettes.

In fact, e-cigarette users are almost four times more likely than non-users to become smokers, said Lai Chih-kuan (賴志冠), attending physician in the Department of Family Medicine at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, citing data from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

"Among American teenagers, 30.7 percent of e-cigarette users started smoking within six months, while only 8.1 percent of non-e-cigarette users became smokers," Lai said at a press conference held by Taiwan's Science Media Center.

It is a phenomenon related to the Gateway theory, which is also known as the stepping-stone theory, he said.

"It is very much like when you drink beer, you soon want to try red wine, white wine and other alcoholic drinks," he said. Many teenagers are attracted to e-cigarettes, probably because of the many flavors available, but e-cigarettes contain nicotine, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds and other substances that may cause cancer, Lai said.

Wang Hsiang-tsui (王湘翠), assistant professor in the Department and Institute of Pharmacology at National Yang-Ming University, said at the press conference that short-term experiments on mice had found that e-cigarettes damage the DNA, retard the functions of the lungs, heart and bladder, and may cause lung cancer.

However, it is difficult to evaluate the health risks of e-cigarettes in humans because the results of animal experiments cannot be applied directly to humans, said Wang, who was on a research team led by Tang Moon-Shong (湯猛雄), a professor in the Department of Environmental Medicine at New York University.

Meanwhile, the Health Promotion Administration said it will review the current rules and regulations and find ways to eliminate e-cigarettes in the market by means such as monitoring online stores and raiding physical outlets that sell the products.

Although e-cigarettes are not legal in Taiwan, their usage among senior high school students was 3.4 percent in 2018, compared with 2.1 percent in 2014, according to a survey by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

The survey found that 30 percent of junior high school students and 20 percent of senior high school students who had never smoked tobacco were using e-cigarettes.

(By Emerson Lim)


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