Electronic cigarettes may be helpful in aiding traditional smokers to quit, but research suggests that these devices are far from harmless, Aoife Muckian investigates.
Studies have suggested that e-cigarette smoking, also known as “vaping,” can help tobacco smokers quit smoking and there is evidence that vaping is less harmful than tobacco smoking. Nevertheless, several groups, such as the World Health Organisation, have spoken out against vaping.
Showing the benefits of vaping, and its usefulness in quitting smoking, a study funded by Cancer Research UK found that the blood of e-cigarette users had lower amounts of tobacco-related carcinogens than their tobacco-smoking counterparts. It also found that when tobacco smokers switched completely from traditional cigarettes to electronic ones, the amount of toxins in their bloodstream also decreased to a level found in people who use nicotine replacements (such as nicotine patches).
Additionally, a study published by the American Association for Cancer Research determined that switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes may lead to a reduction in the amount of nicotine consumed, and an increase in will to quit smoking. These results indicate that smokers have much to gain by switching to e-cigarettes.
“E-cigarette smoking may act as a gateway to the more harmful tobacco smoking.”
However, worrying results have been found in studies with adolescents who have only ever used e-cigarettes. A study published in the British Medical Journal reported that teenagers who had only ever smoked e-cigarettes were four times as likely to go on to smoke tobacco cigarettes a year later, compared to teenagers who had never vaped. This suggests that e-cigarettes may act as a gateway to the more harmful tobacco smoking. The study however cautions that there is “no direct evidence that electronic cigarettes normalise cigarette use.”
“A Californian study… has indicated that teenagers who use e-cigarettes are at twice as likely to develop a persistent cough, wheeze, or bronchitis than those who have never used these devices.”
Not only might they act as a gateway to tobacco smoking, e-cigarettes by themselves may not be as harmless as once thought. A Californian study using self-reported measures has indicated that teenagers who use e-cigarettes are twice as likely to develop a persistent cough, wheeze, or bronchitis than those who have never used these devices. The Surgeon General in their report also warned that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive and has adverse effects on cognitive development.
Possibly, more should be done to advertise e-cigarettes to smokers as a means for them to quit smoking, as research has shown it is less harmful than tobacco smoking. All the same, when advertising such a message, it may be worth pointing out the adverse effects associated with e-cigarette use, particularly for teenagers.