Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), also known as e-cigarettes, first appeared in China in 2003 and have since become popular around the world, particularly due to the Internet. E-cigarettes look a lot like traditional tobacco cigarettes, but they generate fewer toxins in the vapor for the smoker. However, little is known about the long-term health and addiction consequences of e-cigarettes. Little is also known about their nicotine content as well as their appeal to nonusers and youth. According to Elsevier Health Sciences, ENDS have been banned by health officials in Canada and Australia.
Researchers from the United States and several other countries looked into e-cigarettes awareness, use and perceptions among current and former cigarette smokers.
“We were not aware of any studies to date that examined cross-national patterns of ENDS use,” says lead investigator Richard J. O’Connor, Department of Health Behavior, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York. “No studies have examined use in markets where ENDS are nominally banned.”
Researchers examined data from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Four-Country Survey. ENDS awareness reached nearly 47 percent worldwide, ranging from 73 percent in the United States where ENDS are legal, to 20 percent in Australia where they are banned. Researchers also found that awareness was higher among younger, non-minority populations with higher incomes. Of those aware, 16 percent said they had tried e-cigarettes.
Approximately 70 percent of participants said that e-cigarettes were less harmful than traditional cigarettes. Perceptions of harm were higher in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Nearly 80 percent of current users, which included non-daily smokers and those who smoked twenty or more cigarettes a day, reported that they used e-cigarettes because they were considered less harmful than traditional cigarettes. Seventy-five percent said they used e-cigarettes to reduce the number of real cigarettes they smoke. Eight-five percent said they used e-cigarettes to help them stop smoking and nearly 75 percent reported use of the products to access nicotine in smoke-free places.
“This study represents a snapshot in time of the use of ENDS from mid-2010 to mid-2011,” says O’Connor. “As the market evolves, awareness, trial, and use of ENDS is likely to increase. Should regulatory authorities approve direct claims about reduced harm, one might expect greater adoption of these products, at least among current cigarette smokers. If credible evidence can be provided to regulators, through independently researched, well-controlled studies, that ENDS reduces the number of cigarette smokers and does not attract use among nonsmokers, then the net public health effect is likely to be positive.”
Have you ever tried an e-cigarette? Do you think e-cigarettes have any long-term health and addiction consequences? Share your thoughts in the comments section.