E-cigarettes don't, in fact, help you quit smoking, and may have the opposite effect

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The controversy surrounding e-cigarettes was previously muted by the promise that, despite their flaws, they do help smokers quit smoking. But now, even that silver lining has been disproven. As per a new study, not only do e-cigarettes not help you kick the habit, they may have the exact opposite effect -- as it turns out, e-cigarette smokers are 28 percent less likely to quit than individuals who've never used these devices at all.

The study, released online Thursday in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, was comprised of a "systematic review and meta-analysis of 38 studies looking at the link between e-cigarette use and smoking cessation among smokers as young as 15 years old." According to lead author Dr. Sara Kalkhoran (now at Harvard Medical School), this research marks the largest study yet performed on the effects of e-cigarettes on traditional smoking habits.

E-cigarettes work by using batteries to heat nicotine and various flavors that users inhale as a vapor comparable to cigarette smoke. But because there's no tobacco involved, it's considered the "healthier" alternative. While e-cigarettes have previously been heralded as a potential substitute for their carcinogenic tobacco-laden counterparts, last year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force noted that there wasn't enough evidence to market the devices as a quitting solution.

And now, the evidence has turned the tables entirely.

"The irony is that quitting smoking is one of the main reasons both adults and kids use e-cigarettes, but the overall effect is less, not more, quitting," said co-author Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Tobacco Research and Education at UCSF. "While there is no question that a puff on an e-cigarette is less dangerous than a puff on a conventional cigarette, the most dangerous thing about e-cigarettes is that they keep people smoking conventional cigarettes."

Dr. Kalkhoran added, "E-cigarettes should not be recommended as effective smoking cessation aids until there is evidence that, as promoted and used, they assist smoking cessation."