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Electronic Cigarettes May Help Smokers Quit, But Are They Safe?

Kicking the cigarette habit is one of the best things that smokers can do for themselves. Nicotine replacement products, prescription medications, and counseling can all help. What about the newest tobacco substitute, the electronic cigarette? Despite the appeal of so-called e-cigarettes, we don’t know enough about their safety or effectiveness to give them the green light.

Electronic cigarettes come in a variety of shapes. Some look like cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, while others are disguised as pens or other more socially acceptable items. Whatever their shape, they all are built around a battery-operated heating element, a replaceable cartridge that contains nicotine and other chemicals, and an atomizer that converts the chemicals into an inhalable vapor.

A study published this spring in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine concluded that electronic cigarettes may help smokers quit. Whether they are a safe way to quit is another question—preliminary studies from the FDA, New Zealand, and Greece raise some concerns.

There are three reasons to worry about electronic cigarettes. First, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Big Tobacco: A Government Scapegoat Favorite

Smokers of the world unite! It’s strange for a physician to be sympathizing with the tobacco companies, purveyors of the opium of the people. Am I a stealth nicotine addict, an apologist for Big Tobacco who supplies me with my daily fix? This scurrilous allegation can be vaporized in a one-question quiz:

Q: Identify which two of the three individuals listed below are cigarette smokers:

- John Boehner, newly elected Speaker of the House , 3rd in line to the presidency

- Barack Obama, Commander-in-Chief and leader of the free world

- Michael Kirsch, Hemorrhoid Examiner

I’ve never smoked and I detest the habit. It kills people and separates lower income Americans from money that could likely be devoted to more worthwhile endeavors. I remember caring for folks with end-stage emphysema as a medical resident and thinking that this disease was worse than cancer. I haven’t changed my mind.

Yet I have felt for years that Big Tobacco is demonized by the press and the government as Big Scapegoat, and this blame shift has always troubled me. I am well aware that the tobacco companies are guilty of many offenses. They have lied about their corporate practices, advertising strategies and manipulation of nicotine content. These companies — like any individual or business — should be held accountable with available legal remedies. If crimes were committed, then I’m sure this nation has a few idle and altruistic attorneys who can fight them in the courts. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at MD Whistleblower*

Stop Smoking Treatment: Don’t Stop It Too Soon

Butt stopDoctors may want their patients to stick with a smoking cessation regimen even if it’s not initially working, report researchers who found that “delayed quitters” accounted for a third of former smokers who went a year without cigarettes.

Quit rates may be significantly increased by just continuing in motivated but initially unsuccessful patients during the first eight weeks of treatment, according to research published online in the journal Addiction. There’s actually two types of successful quitters: Those who quit immediately and those who are “delayed” but eventually successful. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Why Tobacco Should Be Childproof

A number of colleagues recently mentioned to me that they’ve heard that new smokeless tobacco products are very dangerous because they cause a lot of poisonings to children.

When I checked the Internet, sure enough — there were plenty of news headlines along the lines of “Tobacco mints tied to poisoning in kids” and “Tobacco candy poisoning kids, study shows.” I thought this looked interesting, particularly as I was unaware of any “tobacco candy.” Read more »

This post, Why Tobacco Should Be Childproof, was originally published on by Jonathan Foulds, Ph.D..

What Would It Take For You To Give Up Tobacco?

I was shopping the other day for Sam’s Club food (frozen blueberries 4 pounds for $7.50). As we checked out, I scanned the price of cigarettes behind the counter. Marlboro cigarettes were selling for just under $50 a carton. At one pack per day, that’s $150 a month. For a year, that works out to $1,800.

I once calculated how much a four-pack-a-day family could have had in the bank had they not smoked for fifty years and instead invested that money at standard returns. Six million dollars they’d have to enjoy in retirement. That’s amazing. Six million dollars. And we wouldn’t be talking about a bankrupt entitlement system. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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