E-cigarettes: Miraculous, or smoke-and-mirrors?

FRESNO, Calif.

Freda Souligny says Hollywood influenced her to start smoking at just 13. She had a pack-a-day habit for 61 years. She stopped when emphysema led her to electronic cigarettes two months ago. "This made the transition ... I didn't feel this horrible withdrawal."

Battery-operated, e-cigarettes deliver nicotine vapor through an adjustable cartridge, and cost about $60 to start. Freda kicked her habit by slowly cutting the nicotine dose over several weeks. But smoking cessation experts say e-cigarettes can give smokers a false sense of victory over their addiction.

"With the e-cigarette, it's basically picking it up and putting it in your mouth and you're not really breaking the habit of quitting smoking," said health educator Blanca Sciara, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Northeast Fresno.

Sciara said patients in Kaiser's "Quit Smoking Program" have more success when they pair an alternative like e-cigarettes with classes designed to support their effort to kick the habit.

Recent studies say e-cigarettes can cut the urge to smoke by nearly half. Former smokers like Freda say that's a solid start to snuffing out their habit, for good.

Freda Souligny: "To me ... It's just been miraculous."

Miraculous -- or smoke-and-mirrors? Smoking cessation experts say it really doesn't matter as long as you quit.

Kaiser Permanente offers a free program to help smokers quit. It's open to everyone, not just its members.

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