The audience of clinicians at the June 14 Medical Grand Rounds took out their phones to answer a poll: if they had a patient who started using electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) to help herself quit smoking, would they tell her to stop using the e-cigarette, tell her to continue, or offer no opinion?
Stephen Baldassarri, MD, who gave the lecture at this grand rounds, highlighted the controversy among physicians surrounding e-cigarette use, or vaping. In a 2017 study, Baldassarri surveyed members of the American College of Chest Physicians and found that 33% of respondents did not think e-cigarettes should be used as a smoking cessation aid, 31% thought that they should be, and 36% had no opinion.
“E-cigarettes are inherently toxic,” said Baldassarri. “Despite their inherent toxicity, they’re considerably less toxic than cigarettes,” he said.
And because they’re less toxic than cigarettes, physicians wonder if e-cigarettes can be used as a harm reduction technique, a safer substitute for tobacco cigarettes that can still satisfy the nicotine craving. But whether e-cigarettes are effective for smoking cessation, under what circumstances they might be effective, and their long-term health effects are still unknown.
After the lecture, Baldassarri was presented with the Iva Dostanic Physician-Scientist Trainee Award for his dedication to research as well as clinical practice. The award, established in 2012, commemorates the late Iva Dostanic, MD, PhD. As a young physician-scientist at Yale, Dostanic researched pulmonary hypertension in the lab of Patty J. Lee, MD, Professor of Medicine. After her death from ovarian cancer in 2011, Yale created this award to recognize physician-scientists that exemplify her rigor and passion for medical science.