Katherine Heigl vapes for Letterman

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Last Monday, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Knocked Up” actress Katherine Heigl promoted e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) as her most effective smoking cessation option on the Late Show with David Letterman. She showed Letterman and his audience members how to use it and explained that after trying nicotine gum, the patch, and even the prescription smoking cessation drug Chantix, she decided to use e-cigarettes. "You blow out water vapor so you're not harming anyone around you and you're not harming yourself," she said. "I'm essentially humidifying the space."

E-cigarettes are a clean nicotine delivery system, enabling addicted smokers to get their nicotine fix via a simulated smoking experience that current cessation products such as gums and pills cannot provide. Multiple doctors, however, were quick to assert that e-cigarettes are a harmful drug-delivery device and that smokers’ best options are nicotine patches and gums. Lenox Hill Hospital pulmonary specialist Dr. Len Horovitz told the New York Daily News that “inhaling fumes from the plastic tubes can be carcinogenic.” Similarly, Dr. Jonathon Whiteson, medical director of the Cardiac and Pulmonary Wellness and Rehabilitation Program at NYU Langone Medical Center, argues that e-cigs have “never been proven to be effective at smoking cessation. There are many claims, none of which have been substantiated.”

ACSH staffers strongly disagree. “Unsubstantiated? Ms. Heigl actually stated that she tried other cessations methods without success but was finally able to quit by using e-cigarettes,” says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. “This is a major health breakthrough for this young lady, and it’s likely to add years to her life and make her more healthy. And I’d ask Dr. Horovitz, would puffing on an e-cigarette be more carcinogenic than inhaling real cigarette smoke? What he says is completely ludicrous.”

“ACSH does not subscribe to the view that e-cigarettes are the ‘perfect’ product, but we should not ban them before we obtain data that will ultimately prove their relative safety as compared to traditional cigarettes,” says ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan.