E-cigarettes are popular, but health effects are questionable

This issue includes stories centered on various aspects of pulmonology, as well as a glimpse at the upcoming Internal Medicine 2014 in Orlando, Fla.

Our featured stories this month tackle 2 controversial topics. In our first story, Paula S. Katz looks at e-cigarettes, a relatively new player on the smoking scene. The devices are growing in popularity, but there are serious unanswered questions about their potential health effects, with some thinking they may help pave the way to smoking cessation and others believing they may serve as a “gateway” to traditional smoking, especially in younger users.

With limited data available and the FDA yet to weigh in, clinicians may be uncertain about what to tell their patients. Read our story to learn more about what “vaping” is, what data on its safety are available and how physicians can address e-cigarettes in their practices.

Our second story updates readers on the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's latest recommendations on lung cancer screening. In 2004, the Task Force found insufficient evidence to recommend for or against the practice. In December 2013, however, due largely to the results of the National Lung Screening Trial, the Task Force recommended annual CT screening in adults between the ages of 55 and 80 who have a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit smoking within the past 15 years.

But not everyone agrees. Some experts would like to see screening extended to an even larger population, while others believe more emphasis on individualized risks and benefits is necessary. Stacey Butterfield's story provides a broader perspective on the controversy and helps clarify how physicians may want to begin discussing it with their patients.

To continue our pulmonary theme, one of our inside features examines the potential link between gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and lung disease. Although the presence of both conditions often presents a kind of “chicken and egg” scenario, with no causal relationship yet proven, experts recommend that internists keep an eye out for symptoms of respiratory disorders and “red-flag” problems, such as dysphagia and weight loss, in patients with GERD.

Finally, Internal Medicine 2014 will take place in Orlando, Fla., this April. Our preview article fills you in on what to look for at ACP's premier scientific meeting, including new pre-courses, CME opportunities and the 20th anniversary of the famous Doctor's Dilemma® competition.

What do you think about e-cigarettes? How have you addressed the new guidance on lung cancer screening? Let us know.


Jennifer Kearney-Strouse