Skip to main content

Our Community Focus

What Are E-Cigs and Can They Help You Quit Smoking?

Nov 02, 2014 11:26AM ● By Jennifer Neys

By Gigi Chen, MD

An electronic cigarette (e-cig or e-cigarette) is a battery-powered vaporizer that simulates tobacco smoke by producing an aerosol that resembles smoke. A heating element vaporizes a liquid solution known as e-liquid. E-liquids usually contain a mixture of propylene glycol, vegetable, nicotine, and flavorings.

E-cigs are designed to look like cigarettes, right down to the glowing tip. When the smoker puffs on it, a mist of liquid, flavorings, and nicotine that looks something like smoke is let off. The smoker inhales it like cigarette smoke, and the nicotine is absorbed into the lungs. The nicotine inside the cartridges is very addictive.

In a recent study through Memorial Sloan Kettering, cancer patients who smoked were enrolled in a tobacco treatment program and their smoking history was evaluated. At the beginning of the study, it was noted that the patients who used e-cigarettes were more dependent on nicotine than those who didn't use them. They also had tried quitting more times in the past and were more likely to be diagnosed with cancers of the lung, head, and neck. At the conclusion, they found that the number of those who kicked the habit was the same in both groups.

Other studies give a mixed picture. Some conclude that e-cigs can help people give up the tobacco habit, while other studies suggest that the artificial cigarette carries its own set of health risks. Presently, there is no government oversight of the e-cigarette, and because the FDA has not approved it, there is no way for public health departments, the medical community, or consumers to know what chemicals they contain or what the health implications might be. Researchers conclude that questions remain about the long-term safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes and that more controlled research is needed.

Medical practitioners advise all patients to quit smoking traditional combustible and electronic cigarettes by using FDA-approved cessation medications and/or smoking cessation counseling.

Join Dr. Chen and Dr. Michaela Straznicka at “Shine a Light on Lung Cancer” on November 13, 7– 9pm, at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center. This event will focus on the unique issues facing lung cancer patients and will include information on new screening guidelines, clinical trials, new treatment options and survivorship issues. To register, please call 510-390-0095 or go online at

Gigi Chen, MD is a medical oncologist and hematologist with Diablo Valley Oncology and Hematology Medical Group. She sees patients in Pleasant Hill, Rossmoor, and San Ramon. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 925-677-5041 or visit