November 10, 2017 – Reducing Harm


Anchor lead: How many deaths would a wholesale conversion to e-cigarettes avert? Elizabeth Tracey reports

The discussion over e-cigarettes is complicated, with a new study in the BMJ showing a huge benefit if those who smoke combustible cigarettes switch to the devices. But Enid Neptune, a lung expert and antismoking advocate at Johns Hopkins, says it all comes down to what you compare it to.

Neptune: What it tells us is basically what we know. In that if you replace regular cigarettes with e-cigarette use you will probably have better outcomes in the long run but the arm that it didn’t have is if patients had used conventional smoking cessation tools to stop and had not continued on any nicotine product over the long term. What would that number of avoided premature deaths have been? And that’s really the number that we want.  :28

Neptune is concerned that those studies comparing e-cigarettes to traditional smokes will always demonstrate their superiority, but the real comparator is no nicotine delivery vehicle at all. She notes that there are plenty of toxic substances in e-cigarette vapors we don’t yet know the full impact of. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.