A panel of experts has concluded there is not yet enough evidence to determine whether e-cigarettes are safe or effective in helping people quit smoking, Reuters reports.
The recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are widely used by insurance companies to determine whether they will pay for screenings and treatments.
Dr. Francisco Garcia, a task force member and researcher at the University of Arizona, said the task force recommended doctors advise patients to use other cessation methods with established effectiveness and safety. "Many studies show that combinations of behavioral interventions or pharmacotherapies can help the most," he said.
Behavioral interventions include in-person counseling sessions, telephone counseling, and tailored self-help materials.
Food and Drug Administration–approved smoking cessation medications include nicotine replacement therapy, which is available in a variety of forms such as patches, gums, and lozenges, and the medications varenicline and bupropion SR (sold as Chantix and Zyban).
The task force recommendations are published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Lead researcher Carrie Patnode said only two large studies assessing e-cigarette for smoking cessation met the gold standard for medical research. This means some patients are randomly assigned to the treatment being studied, while others are randomly assigned to receive alternative treatments or a placebo.
It is difficult to study e-cigarettes because there are many varieties, each containing different amounts of nicotine, chemicals and additives, the article notes. All of these ingredients may affect the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes as smoking cessation aids.