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FDA: The Importance of Understanding Smoking Risks & the Role of E-Cigarettes in Quitting


Significant progress has been made in reducing cigarette smoking in the United States through comprehensive population-level strategies. However, over 30 million adults in the U.S. still smoke cigarettes, and smoking remains the leading cause of premature illness and death nationwide.

The FDA's Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) is committed to protecting the health of all citizens in the United States through a comprehensive approach to reducing the burden of tobacco use. This includes timely and evidence-based public health education.

In addition to preventing youth initiation and promoting cessation among those who use tobacco products, the CTP aims to educate adult smokers about the risks of tobacco products and suggest ways for them to gradually quit smoking.

Key Points for Educating the Public on Smoking Risks and Cessation

  • Youth should not use any form of tobacco products.
  • For adult smokers, it is important to use evidence-based cessation methods, such as FDA-approved therapies. For adult smokers who have tried these methods without success, physicians can inform patients about the relative risks of tobacco products and the potential benefits of transitioning to lower-risk products, such as e-cigarettes.
  • Emphasizing the importance of complete transition from smoking to exclusive e-cigarette use among smoking patients is crucial.
  • Ultimately, complete abstinence from all tobacco products should be the ultimate goal.

Are E-Cigarettes a Lower-Risk Alternative to Cigarettes?

While e-cigarettes can generally be a lower-risk alternative for adults who smoke cigarettes, e-cigarette use is not without risk. These products contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Since there is no safe tobacco product, both youth and adults who do not use tobacco products should not start using e-cigarettes.

For adults who already smoke, complete transition from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes can reduce exposure to many harmful chemicals found in cigarettes. However, it is important that the transition to e-cigarettes be complete in order to achieve the full health benefit.

Why? Because prolonged dual use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes has been shown to cause health harms similar to exclusive cigarette use—thus, there appears to be no benefit from using both traditional and e-cigarettes simultaneously.

Why Is It Important for Adult Smokers to Understand the Risks of Tobacco Products?

Many people who use tobacco products have misconceptions about nicotine and the risks posed by various tobacco products. Despite scientific studies showing that e-cigarettes generally have lower levels of harmful components than cigarettes, many adults believe that e-cigarettes are equally or more harmful than cigarettes.

Research has found that some adults who believe that e-cigarettes are as or more harmful than traditional cigarettes are less likely to switch from smoking cigarettes to exclusive e-cigarette use.

Source: FDA - Relative Risks of Tobacco Products

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