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In a word of controversies around the e-cigarette, what do we know for sure?

When browsing through scientific publications, one realizes that most of them only address a very tiny aspect of a broad topic. A search on Google Scholar, for example, returns thousands of peer-reviewed publications. But among them, some are controversial because of their methodology or their wrong scientific approach. It is then very hard, when you are not a specialist in this domain, to find a way between what is a robust knowledge and what is misinformation.

For the sake of clarity, Bertrand Dautzenberg, in collaboration with Daniel Garelik from the Hôpitaux Universitaires Pitié Salpêtrière, Paris (France) published in the medical review Lung Cancer a vade mecum of the e-cigarette with updated information until 2015, a state-of-the-art for physicians.

Physicians are often asked about e-cigarette, it is important that they provide accurate information to their patients

This document has been elaborated for caregivers and other health professionals assisting patients for whom smoking is a worsening factor of their disease; the target of this document, as stated by the authors, is the caregiver who deals with patients suffering from lung cancers.

In our opinion, the document will be useful to any caregiver having patients in demand for information on smoking cessation options.

What should a physician know about e-cigarette?

It comes back from inquiries that most professionals are not informed on the topic and, some of them are misinformed about it. Since those professionals are supposed to be the vector of accurate information to their patient, the lack of knowledge about the use and the risks of e-cigarettes becomes a public health issue.

A brief history

Electronic cigarettes have emerged about 10 years ago from Chinese manufactures and have rapidly spread around the globe. For some people it constitutes a major progress in the fight against tobacco since they may deliver nicotine without the tar, carbon monoxyde and other harmful chemicals produced by burnt tobacco; for some others, it is too experimental with too many unknowns, especially for long-term use because.

The authors carefully reviewed all aspect of the device itself, of the e-liquids and provide updated information on the current robust scientific knowledge. The points of controversies are also approached and the most pertinent information is provided.

The message

In the conclusion of their work, they recall that it is important for health professionals to have an accurate view of the product for advising patients on smoking cessation. Even if the complete innocuousness is not scientifically established, it remains a safer option compared to smoking, especially during the treatment of patients suffering from diseases that require surgery or radiotherapy. And in no case should the e-cigarette be discarded in these situations.


Dautzenberg B. & Garelik D. (2015) Patients with lung cancer: Are electronic cigarettes harmful, useful? Lung Cancer. Doi:10.1016/j.lungcan.2015.12.004