Patients are increasingly asking their GPs about electronic cigarettes. Should they try them? Are they safe? Are they legal? GPs need to be ready to answer these questions.
- Electronic cigarettes (ECs) are battery-powered devices that create an aerosol of a liquid for inhalation; they can deliver effective nicotine doses and simulate the behaviour of smoking.
- Increasing numbers of tobacco smokers in Australia are using ECs to quit or reduce smoking.
- The limited evidence so far suggests that ECs may be effective smoking cessation aids; their use appears substantially safer than smoking, although there are no long-term safety data at present.
- ECs may have a therapeutic role for smokers who have been unsuccessful with or are intolerant of TGA-approved stop-smoking medications.
- ECs are likely to be most effective in conjunction with GP support and counselling and other antismoking therapies.
- Concerns that ECs may renormalise smoking and act as a gateway to smoking for young people can potentially be addressed by strong regulatory controls.
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