A new study on e-cigarettes indicates that even though they deliver a surprising amount of nicotine, they’re actually less addictive than regular cigarettes, Penn State News reports.
In this study, Penn State College of Medicine professor of public health sciences and psychiatry Jonathan Foulds employed a large sample of long term e-cigarette users, finding that the longer a person uses an e-cigarette, the more likely they are to be addicted.
Higher nicotine concentration in e-cigarettes also functioned as a good predictor of dependence rates, although nicotine concentration at this level was not present in “cig-a-likes,” but rather in custom-made contraptions which more efficiently deliver large doses of nicotine.
However, e-cigarette dependence rates nearly always dipped below cigarette dependence rates. Fould hypothesized that lower average nicotine rates in e-cigarettes may be the reason for a lower dependence rate.
“This is a new class of products that’s not yet regulated,” Foulds said. “It has the potential to do good and help a lot of people quit, but it also has the potential to do harm. Continuing to smoke and use e-cigarettes may not reduce health risks. Kids who have never smoked might begin nicotine addiction with e-cigs. There’s a need for a better understanding of these products.”
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices which heat a liquid to create vapor, instead of burning tobacco. There are hundreds of different flavors, and one e-cigarette device can look completely different from another, constituting an absolute nightmare for regulators.
A total of 3,500 e-cigarette smokers who used to smoke regular cigarettes filed out the online questionnaires researchers named the Penn State Cigarette Dependence Index and Penn State Electronic Cigarette Dependence Index, which assessed dependence rates. These new indexes represent the most cutting edge development in the field, as the standard index is 25-years-old and inadequate to measure how modern tobacco products are consumed.
Although his overall tone was positive, Foulds urged caution about jumping to premature conclusions. The long-term effects of e-cigarettes are still under considerable study.
“We don’t have long-term health data of e-cig use yet, but any common sense analysis says that e-cigs are much less toxic. And our paper shows that they appear to be much less addictive, as well. So in both measures they seem to have advantages when you’re concerned about health,” Foulds noted.
But even in the absence of long-term studies, e-cigarette usage is exploding in populartiy across the country. A study released Tuesday showed that one in four high school students in Connecticut have tried an e-cigarette at one point.
“We were surprised so many kids were using these products,” said associate professor in psychiatry and primary author Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, according to Yale News. Reflecting the growing interest in e-cigarettes, researchers at the University of Arizona on Tuesday received a $2.7 million dollar grant to survey attitudes on social media to determine exactly why people use e-cigarettes.