Expert’s Corner: Day doesn’t recommend e-cigarettes to help smokers quit

The Great American Smokeout prompts questions about controversial tobacco alternative

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

November 21, 2013
   Nicole Day
   Nicole Day, MEd


Today is the Great American Smokeout, and the hottest thing this year in quitting is e-cigarettes. But without significant research supporting them, or FDA approval, are smoking cessation experts supporting the e-cigarette trend?

UMass Medical School’s Nicole Day, MEd, a certified tobacco treatment specialist, does not recommend e-cigs, but does believe they provide value to some quitters.

“If it was up to me, I wouldn’t recommend them at all because they still reinforce habitual behavior associated with smoking, and patients often wind up lighting up a regular cigarette,” said Day, who counsels patients in the Department of Psychiatry’s Tobacco Consultation Service. “Still, some patients who use them do taper off and eventually quit smoking.”

Day does not bring up e-cigarettes with her patients because they are not one of the pharmacological treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But when someone asks, she’ll engage in a discussion with them.

“My approach is really simple: I’ll tell them what I know and what I don’t know,” she said. In turn, Day encourages her patients to ask more questions and tell her what they’ve heard and what they think about e-cigarettes.

“Then they’ll turn around and say ‘it’s probably not harmless, but it’s less harmful than traditional cigarettes.’ I’m all for discussing it and letting the patient make their own decision.”

But Day draws the line at recommending e-cigarettes and may hold that line even if the devices eventually earn FDA approval.

Nonetheless, she acknowledges that e-cigarettes can help some people quit smoking. At the very least, they can help individuals who use them in between smoking to reduce cigarette consumption. Even smokers who don’t want to quit like e-cigarettes because they feel they’re eliminating second-hand smoke for their loved ones.

“E-cigarettes can be a harm reduction model for people who already smoke because using them instead of tobacco is a step in the right direction, but that does not mean they are harmless,” Day concluded. “There is no magic bullet, but it can be a huge leap for someone who has been smoking for many years to say, ‘This is something new, I’ll try it.’”

Related link on UMassMedNow:
Nicotine addiction expert urges regulation, not prohibition, of e-cigarettes