Interview of Professor Bertrand Dautzenberg, pulmonologist at the University Hospital of Pitié-Salpêtrière-Charles-Foix, Paris. He is one of the main authors of the e-cigarette report.
What exactly is an electronic cigarette?
Professor Bertrand Dautzenberg: It's actually a "fake cigarette" that sometimes has a diode simulating combustion at the end. It includes a cartridge whose solution heats up in contact with a small resistance. This cartridge contains propylene glycol or glycerol, flavors and often nicotine in varying concentrations.
The electronic cigarette knows more and more success ...
Comics professor: The electronic cigarette (or e-cigarette) has been available since 2006, but since 2010, there has been a sharp increase in sales. Overall, it is a priori much less toxic than the conventional cigarette, because with the electronic cigarette, there is no inhalation of carbon monoxide, fine particles or carcinogens ... But however, there is a lack of accurate information on its safety. The electronic cigarette diffuses nicotine, irritating particles for the respiratory tract ... which is harmful for a non-smoker!
Why are doctors alerting us today about e-cigarettes?
Professor BD: It is a product more and more widespread that is currently sold in supermarkets, supermarkets next to sweets ... and that children can buy. But these cigarettes containing nicotine, can be addictive ... And the risk is that they become a tobacco initiation product for young people. A study showed that 64% of Parisian schoolgirls aged 12 to 14 who tried the electronic cigarette, had never smoked before ...
E-cigarettes are unlikely to do more harm than conventional cigarettes containing tobacco ...
Professor BD : For a smoker, the answer is clearly no! On the other hand, for a non-smoker, it is obvious that the electronic cigarette is toxic and may be addictive. And so, you have to regulate their sale. This product should not be considered a consumer product ...
Stop smoking with an electronic cigarette
What advice would you give to someone who wants to quit with an electronic cigarette?
Professor Bertrand Dautzenberg: It is difficult to answer this question because we lack studies, we have virtually no evaluation on the electronic cigarette. As I said, when it comes to toxicity, it's better to use an electronic cigarette than to smoke tobacco.
But in terms of addiction, I feel that electronic cigarettes are closer to the effects of tobacco ... than smoking cessation drugs. It does not seem to me a very favorable solution to smoking cessation. And today, no health professional can recommend such a solution to stop smoking, because no risk-benefit study corresponding to the requirements of a health product, has never been conducted.
What is the difference with a nicotine inhaler sold in pharmacies?
Professor BD: The nicotine inhaler sold in pharmacies is a drug that has been studied, and it is issued by a health professional.
E-cigarettes are banned in some countries, becoming a drug in others. In France, it is considered by default as a "consumer product" (for "authorized" nicotine levels below 20 mg / ml).
In the future, we could imagine that the e-cigarette can be used for smoking cessation if studies prove its effectiveness. But today, we can worry about the buyout of e-cigarette companies by tobacco companies, and fear that these e-cigarettes then become products of initiation, incitement to smoking ... specific regulations adapted 'imposed.
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Sources and notes
- Report and expert opinion on the e-cigarette (French Office for Smoking Prevention). May 2013.
- Press release Ministry of Health of May 31, 2013.
- Recommendation of good practice. Stopping smoking: from individual screening to maintenance of abstinence as a first resort, HAS, October 2013.