E-cigarettes are less addictive than traditional cigarettes for long-term smokers, according to research that sheds new light on how nicotine addiction works. "We found that e-cigarettes appear to be less addictive than tobacco cigarettes in a large sample of long-term users," said Jonathan Foulds from the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine.
The popularity of e-cigarettes, which typically deliver nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin and flavourings through inhaled vapour, has increased in the past five years. 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, researchers said.
To study e-cigarette dependence, researchers developed an online survey, including questions designed to assess previous dependence on cigarettes and almost identical questions to assess current dependence on e-cigs. Higher nicotine concentration in e-cig liquid, as well as use of advanced second-generation e-cigs, which deliver nicotine more efficiently than earlier "cigalikes," predicted dependence.
Consumers who had used e-cigs longer also appeared to be more addicted. "However, people with all the characteristics of a more dependent e-cig user still had a lower e-cig dependence score than their cigarette dependence score," Foulds said.
"We think this is because they're getting less nicotine from the e-cigs than they were getting from cigarettes," 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," Foulds said. The findings also have implications for developing e-cigs for smoking cessation.
"We might actually need e-cigarettes that are better at delivering nicotine because that's what is more likely to help people quit," Foulds added. The study was published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.