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Electronic cigarettes: A viable option for quitting smoking?

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Smoking is probably the most important lifestyle issue which nurses have to confront. Still practiced by a fifth of the adult population, it is responsible for increasing the risk of pulmonary and heart disease and it also has lesser-known effects, such as reduced fertility, renal dysfunction and enhanced intestinal disorders.1

The prevalence of smoking has decreased in recent years, largely due to the legislation preventing smoking in public spaces, which enhanced the growing antisocial nature of smoking. Current guidelines to assist those who wish to quit involves counselling and the use of nicotine-containing products (NCP), such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).2

But much of this campaigning and changes in attitude may be undermined with the growing use of a relatively new form of NCP, electronic or e-cigarettes. Since their introduction in 2003, electronic cigarettes have increased in popularity, both as a replacement for tobacco smoking and to a lesser extent, as an aid to quit smoking. This growth in electronic cigarettes, with the market now worth in excess of £100m per year in the UK, is largely due to the lack of regulation, increasing their availability as an affordable alternative to tobacco consumption.3


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