Do Electronic Cigarettes Have a Role in Tobacco Cessation?

Pharmacotherapy. 2018 May;38(5):555-568. doi: 10.1002/phar.2103. Epub 2018 Apr 30.


Tobacco use continues to be a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Even with behavioral and pharmacologic treatment, long-term tobacco cessation rates are low. Electronic nicotine delivery systems, commonly referred to as electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes, are increasingly used for tobacco cessation. Because e-cigarettes are widely used in this setting, health care professionals need to know if they are safe and effective. The purpose of this article is to review literature regarding use of e-cigarettes as a tool for tobacco cessation in patients who are ready to quit, as well as those who are not ready to quit, along with some selected patient populations. The safety and clinical implications of e-cigarette use are also reviewed. Small, short-term studies assessing smokers' use of e-cigarettes suggest that e-cigarettes may be well tolerated and modestly effective in achieving abstinence. High-quality studies are lacking to support e-cigarettes use for cessation in patients with mental health issues. One small prospective cohort study concluded that patients with mental health issues reduced cigarette use with e-cigarette use. Although one study found that patients with cancer reported using e-cigarettes as a tobacco-cessation strategy, e-cigarettes were not effective in supporting abstinence 6 and 12 months later. Additional research is needed to evaluate the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation in patients with pulmonary diseases. No data exist to describe the efficacy of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation in pregnant women. Although study subjects report minimal adverse effects with e-cigarettes and the incidence of adverse effects decreases over time, long-term safety data are lacking. Health care providers should assess e-cigarette use in their patients as part of the tobacco cessation process.

Keywords: asthma; cancer; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; e-cigarettes; electronic nicotine delivery systems; pregnancy; tobacco cessation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems*
  • Humans
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Time Factors
  • Tobacco Use / adverse effects
  • Tobacco Use / prevention & control
  • Tobacco Use Cessation / methods*