The Current State of E-Cigarettes

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E-cigarette resembling a tobacco cigarette.Debuting in 2003, electronic nicotine delivery systems (e-cigarettes) look like regular tobacco cigarettes but release fewer toxins into a smoker’s lungs. But their impact on our long-term health is unknown, as is any consequences of addiction. Banned in Canada and Australia, what should Americans think of them?

Researchers from the U.S., Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada investigated people’s awareness, use, and perception of e-cigarettes among current and former cigarette smokers. They used data from international surveys of about 6,000 people from July 2010 to June 2011.

They found that there was an overall 47% awareness of e-cigarettes in all countries, with a high of 73% in the U.S. Younger individuals and those with higher incomes tended to be more aware, and of the 73%, 16% had tried them.

The vast majority of people believe that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes. People who use e-cigarettes range from non-daily smokers to those lighting up 20 or more times a day. Eight in 10 people reported that they used e-cigarettes because they were considered less harmful than traditional cigarettes. As well, 75% said they used them in order to cut down on the number of actual cigarettes they smoked, and 85% used e-cigarettes to fully help them quit smoking.

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Even countries where e-cigarettes are banned have a high level of awareness. This might indicate that the Internet is a big source of promotion and possibly sales of e-cigarettes.

The researchers believe that, as the e-cigarette market evolves, awareness and use will increase. If health authorities come out and say that they reduce harm, there could be a substantial adoption of these products—especially among those who smoke but worry about their health.

What is still completely uncertain is whether e-cigarettes can reduce the number of actual cigarettes someone smokes. Is it a smoking cessation tool? If it can successfully do so, then there may be a benefit to public health. But as it stands, the effects of these products are very much unknown, and they could possibly be a dangerous method to help quit smoking.

Sources for Today’s Articles:
The Current State of E-Cigarettes
“Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems: International Tobacco Control Four-Country Survey,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine March 2013; 44(3).