Electronic Nicotine Delivery systems (ENDs), also known e-cigarettes or vape pens are becoming increasingly popular as cigarette alternatives among young adults. But does the use of ENDs really curb cigarette use or is it promoting the unhealthy habit?
A new kind of Electronic Nicotine Delivery system (END), also known as e-cigarette or vape pen, is gaining popularity amidst some confusion and controversy. Marketed to young adults as a convenient and modern alternative, nearly 70% of current cigarette smokers report having tried ENDs at least once, and 50% report regular use. However, there is growing concern about whether these ENDs represent a safer alternative to cigarettes, or cause additional health problems and promote nicotine dependence.
The vape pen is a second generation END, resembles a large pen, and is designed to accommodate atomizers and batteries for a customized nicotine delivery. The first generation ENDs, also known as cigalikes, closely resemble cigarettes. Although use of ENDs is expected to decrease the combustible cigarette consumption, there is a strong possibility that smoking e-cigarettes would actually increase the urge to smoke. Researchers conducted a study to understand the effects of e-cigarette exposure on smoking urges in young adults. The details of this study have been published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 2017.
108 healthy adults between the ages 18-35 years and current cigarette smokers participated in the study. The study presented a social task to each participant with a non-smoking cue, like drinking water, in front of the participant followed by a questionnaire. The questionnaire recorded the participant’s desire to smoke. This was again followed by a social task with a smoking cue, i.e. a study representative smoked a cigarette or an e-cigarette in the vicinity of the participant. A survey was presented to the participant at the end to record their smoking urges.
The data summarized from the study was then analyzed and standardized to reach a conclusion. The results indicate that even a passive exposure to the second generation ENDs like vape pens increase smoking urge and desire as well as e-cigarette desire in young adults. The vape pens act as smoking cues, with advertisements and passive use of e-cigarettes giving rise to smoking urges. Smokers with no past use history of e-cigarettes were also affected by smoking urges on exposure. This proves that ENDs are an active smoking cue to current users, past users, and non-users. Further studies are required to identify the active components in ENDs that make them a smoking cue. However, it is clear that ENDs promote nicotine consumption and increase overall smoking desires.
Written By: Anuja Kulkami, Biomedical Engineer