As smokers across the country trade in their tobacco for e-cigarettes in an effort to kick the habit, researchers admit that very little is known about the long-term effects of doing so.
That’s why Tampa’s Moffitt Cancer Center is using a $3.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to delve into the topic. The center’s Tobacco Research & Intervention Program is heading up a five-year study and needs volunteers from across the country to help out.
E-cigarettes don’t burn tobacco like standard smokes. Instead, they “vaporize” a liquid that generally contains nicotine. The vapor is inhaled into the lungs, much like smoke.
“Although very little is known about the safety of these new products, they are thought to be much less dangerous than conventional cigarettes,” Moffitt wrote in a media release about the study’s kickoff. “Most e-cigarette users report that they began using the product in an attempt to quit or cut down on smoking.”
Moffitt’s goal with the grant is to understand more about how e-cigarettes are used over time and to determine if users are truly successful on their quests to quit. The first year of the study will involve researchers interviewing users of e-cigarettes to learn more about their experiences and their opinions on the pros and cons of use.
As the study kicks off, researchers are looking for current and former smokers who are also current or former e-cigarette users to interview.
“Public health researchers are really playing catch-up with the explosion of e-cigarettes onto the marketplace,” explained Thomas Brandon, Ph.D., director of Moffitt’s intervention program.
The final four years of the study will involve the enrollment of 2,500 e-cigarette users from across the country. During this phase, researchers will follow participants for 24 months by sending them surveys to complete quarterly. The research is hoped to deliver data about the long-term effects of e-cigarettes and their potential value to those trying to quit smoking.
“Millions of smokers are using e-cigarettes to try to quit smoking, yet because there is a lack of data, we are not able to advise them whether that is an effective smoking cessation strategy,” Brandon said. “This study should provide some answers that will be very useful to smokers as they consider ways to quit.”
E-cigarette users interested in being interviewed for the study are asked to call 1-877-954-2548.