E-cigarettes are just as a addictive as the real thing, researchers have found.
A new study warned that because e-liquids contain the most addictive form of nicotine and many bottles of the liquid are mislabeled as to their level of the drug, they are causing major problems.
It comes as a separate study found that gradually decreasing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes did not help smokers to quit, finding that only one person did so over the course of a year.
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E-cigarettes were found to be just as addictive as ‘normal’ cigarettes.
THE RISE OF E-CIGARETTES
There are currently more than 400 brands of ‘e-cigs’ available.
E-cigs contain far fewer cancer-causing and other toxic substances than cigarettes, however their long-term effects on health and nicotine dependence are unknown.
The popularity of e-cigarettes, which typically deliver nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin and flavorings through inhaled vapor, has increased in the past five years.
Electronic cigarettes are seen as a healthier alternative for smokers who don’t want to actually kick the habit because rather than burning tobacco, liquids containing nicotine and flavorings are heated and vaporized.
In a study published in Chemical Research in Toxicology, the team from the American University of Beirut and the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products worked to find the levels of nicotine in the liquids and what type of nicotine they contained.
Of the three types of nicotine, researchers found that all the brands of e-liquid they tested were the strongest form – free-base nicotine that is easily absorbed by the body.
More significantly, the researchers wrote that levels of nicotine contained in e-liquids often didn’t match the label.
In a separate two-year study, published in the journal Addiction, reducing the level of nicotine in cigarettes was not shown to help people quit the habit.
‘We don’t know that very low nicotine cigarettes will not work to reduce nicotine dependence and enhance quitting, but progressively reducing nicotine content of cigarettes in the way we did, without other means of supporting smokers, did not produce the desired results,’ said Dr. Neal Benowitz, a professor at the University of California San Francisco, in a press release.
Researchers recruited 135 smokers who were not interested in quitting, asking some to smoke cigarettes they were given and the rest to continue smoking their regular brand.
Those in the experimental group were given cigarettes with progressively less nicotine in them over the course of 6 months, and then were asked to smoke the free, lower-nicotine cigarettes for 6 months.
Participants were followed for another year after the 6 months of low-nicotine cigarettes. Researchers found that almost none of the 153 people — who had not been interested in quitting in the first place — had reduced or quit their smoking.
The participants reported smoking about 20 cigarettes per day at the start of the study, and many who received research cigarettes reported this had plunged to about 13 per day.
In many cases, researchers reported, people returned to their former brand and nicotine level when no longer being provided with the lower-nicotine option.
Benowitz said the study shows reducing nicotine alone doesn’t help with nicotine addiction, but that a combination of tactics, including e-cigarettes, which have benefits over burning paper and tobacco., is required.
‘Nicotine reduction would work best in the context of public education, easy access to smoking cessation services and the availability of non-combustible sources of nicotine for those who have difficulty stopping nicotine completely,’ Benowitz said.
A sepeate recent study warned E-cigarettes could be luring teens into trying smoking – and lead them onto smoking ‘real’ cigarettes, researchers have warned.
They found one-third of Hawaiian teens have tried e-cigarettes – half of whom have never used another tobacco product.
They claim if a similar pattern was repeated in the US, it could lead to a ‘epidemic of teen tobacco use’.
‘The concern is that e-cigarette advertising is recruiting intermediate risk adolescents to nicotine use- kids who would not otherwise have started smoking,’ said James Sargent, of Dartmouth Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center in a paper published in the journal Pediatrics.
‘These are kids who might go on to smoke cigarettes, which are much better at delivering nicotine than e-cigarettes.
‘If this pattern of use is adopted by adolescents in the continental U.S., we could be in for an epidemic of teen tobacco use in this country that could greatly reduce the overall benefits to public health of e-cigarettes.’
Researchers from Dartmouth and the University of Hawaii Cancer Center collaborated in the 2013 survey-based study of 1,941 adolescents aged 14-15 years old in public and private schools in Hawaii.
Cigarettes are highly taxed in Hawaii and e-cigarettes, with their potent combination of lower cost and kid-friendly flavours such as mango and pineapple, may be more attractive to teens.
Thomas Wills, PhD, of the UH Cancer Center, said e-cigarettes, which are widely available in Hawaii, marketing is ‘very aggressive here.’
He added that manufacturers place ads in venues such as movie theaters where adolescents socialize, as well as on radio and television.
Nearly nine per cent of eighth graders have admitted using an e-cigarette, compared with four per cent who have taken a normal cigarette.
Professor Lloyd Jonson of the University of Michigan said: ‘I worry that the tremendous progress that we’ve made over the last almost two decades in smoking could be reversed on us by the introduction of e-cigarettes.’
E-cigarettes have been on sale in the United States since 2006, but this is the first year that the Centers for Disease Control has measured their use.
‘This is a markedly different pattern of use compared to their peers in the continental U.S., where teen e-cigarette use is less than half that rate and e-cigarette users are mainly also cigarette smokers (dual-users),’ reported the team.
Sargent and collaborators were so concerned about the findings that they submitted them to the FDA docket to inform proposed regulations on e-cigarettes.
They note that favouring packaging, and marketing of e-cigarettes is not regulated, and that manufacturers’ opportunities to target adolescents are wide open, absent FDA regulation of these products.