E-cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes, are a growing trend, but their use raises many questions. New research may provide answers about their possible risks to the public’s health and their effectiveness as smoking cessation tools.

In a new study from the American Journal of Public Health, researcher Pallav Pokhrel, PhD, MPH, found that smokers who try e-cigarettes to quit tend to be younger and more motivated to quit smoking.

Surveying smokers in Hawaii, Pokhrel asked about their knowledge and use of e-cigarettes to quit smoking, and assessed their nicotine dependence, quit attempt history, motivation to quit and readiness to quit smoking. He found that most smokers using e-cigarettes to quit were younger, smoked for fewer years than other participants and were more motivated to quit. They were also more likely to be white than Native Hawaiian, and those who used other nicotine replacement products, such as gums or patches, were more likely to try e-cigarettes to quit.

Views varied on the topic of e-cigarettes, particularly as it related to younger consumers. In a Public Health Newswire Q&A, Choi explained: “I think the perception of e-cigarettes as cessation aids is of the greatest concern.”

This study is not the first time that e-cigarette use correlated to younger people.  A study by Kelvin Choi, PhD, MPH, featured in the March 2013 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, found that many young adults believe that e-cigarettes are less harmful and addictive than cigarettes. The majority also agreed that e-cigarettes could assist with quitting smoking.

 

Choi argued, “First, this perception may drive young adults to use e-cigarettes when trying to quit smoking instead of proven-effective cessation treatments. To date, no studies have shown that e-cigarettes are more effective than proven-effective cessation treatments such as nicotine replacement therapy and counseling. Therefore, e-cigarettes may hinder young adult smokers from quitting smoking.”

Alternatively, Pokhrel encourages regulations that identify e-cigarettes as cessation tools.  “Despite the lack of firm evidence regarding safety or effectiveness, e-cigarettes appear to have become cessation aids of choice for some smokers who appear to show a relatively higher motivation to quit smoking,” he wrote. “Thus this study confirms the importance of promptly developing appropriate e-cigarette regulations that address smokers’ use of e-cigarettes as cessation products.”

Ultimately, continued research could lead to greater understanding of e-cigarettes’ effect on the public’s health.

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