Researchers Weigh in on Electronic Cigarettes

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Research about electronic cigarettes has been ongoing. In some cases, studies have been funded by public institutions and in other cases manufacturers have been developing research studies to learn more about electronic cigarettes. The results have been interesting on both counts.

Research from ASH in London has found that electronic cigarettes are less harmful because most of the health harm associated with traditional cigarettes comes from the inhalation of the tobacco smoke. Since e cigarettes contain only nicotine, a substance that research manager Amanda Sandford says is far less harmful, e cigarettes have fewer of the health drawbacks of traditional cigarettes. Sandford has stated that more research needs to be done to determine the long-term effects of electronic cigarettes.

Another study, from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH), looked at the effectiveness of electronic cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid and found that e cigarettes have success rates close to double those of traditional stop smoking aids. The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and examined smokers over a six month period. Researchers found that 31% of test subjects reported quitting smoking within six months of trying e cigarettes. Close to 67% who tried e cigarettes reported smoking fewer cigarettes. In contrast, only 12-18% of research respondents who tried nicotine gum or patches had success quitting.  Lead author Michael Siegel and his team conducted a survey of 222 first-time e cigarette buyers to reach their conclusions.

Another study, published in the journal Indoor Air by T. Schripp, D. Markewitz, E. Uhde, and T. Salthammer concluded that the water vapor emitted by e cigarettes is far less toxic than the second-hand smoke associated with traditional cigarettes. Researchers conducted the study by having test subjects smoke either traditional cigarettes or e cigarettes in a contained chamber and then measuring the volatile organic compounds in the room and the volatile organic compounds in the exhaled air of the test subject. According to researchers, electronic cigarettes contain mostly propylene glycol, glycerine, nicotine, and flavorings in the gas phase, compared to the many chemicals and volatile organic compounds emitted by smokers through second-hand smoke.

In March 2013, another study concerning electronic cigarettes was published in Tobacco Control. According to lead author Maciej L. Goniewicz of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the study found that the use of e cigarettes may be a harm-reduction tool because e cigarettes significantly reduce the vaper’s exposure to the chemicals found in traditional cigarettes.  Goniewicz and his team studied the metals, volatile organic compounds, nitrosamines, and carbonyl compounds found in 12 brands of cigarettes. The researchers compared this to the levels in nicotine inhalers and traditional cigarettes. According to the researchers, the levels of some toxic compounds was 9-450 times higher in traditional cigarette smoke when compared with e cigarette vapor. A vaper’s exposure to acrolein, for example, is 15 times lower with e cigarette vapor than with cigarette smoke. Acrolein has been associated with cardiovascular disease and respiratory irritation.

These are only the latest studies concerning e cigarettes. Many more researchers are examining the health effects of electronic cigarettes and many are especially interested in the long-term health effects of the products. Most researchers agree that there is a need for further studies.
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