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E-cigs less addictive than smokes, study shows

A study at the Pennsylvania State College of Medicine found e-cigs not as addictive as tobacco smokes. “We found that e-cigarettes appear to be less addictive than tobacco cigarettes,” commented the study's lead researcher, Jonathan Foulds, Professor of Public Health Sciences and Psychiatry, “in a large sample of long-term users.” The study was published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

More than 3600 ex-smokers who now vape took two separate questionnaires designed by the researchers, a “Cigarette Dependence Index” and an “E-Cigarette Dependence Index”, that assessed both their previous dependence on toxic smokes and their current dependence on vaping devices.

Vapers were in all cases less dependent than they had been on tobacco, although users of high nicotine concentrations, users of newer, more efficient vaporizers, and longer term e-cig users were more dependent than others. This led Professor Foulds to conclude that a lower nicotine intake is responsible for the lower levels of dependence, reports Traci Pederson of Psych Central.

“We don’t have long-term health data of e-cig use yet,” Professor Foulds adds, “but any common sense analysis says that e-cigs are much less toxic. And our paper shows that they appear to be much less addictive, as well. So in both measures they seem to have advantages when you’re concerned about health.”

Would that such “common sense” were in longer supply at the regulatory agencies making decisions about the fate of electronic cigarettes.

These discoveries also have ramifications significant to the issue of smoking cessation, and the possible use of e-cigs in quit attempts, adds Pederson.

“We might actually need e-cigarettes that are better at delivering nicotine because that's what's more likely to help people quit,” says the Penn Prof in conclusion.

It has been known for some time that tobacco cigarettes do a more effective job at delivering nicotine into the blood stream. This is because of something called “alveolar deposition” and it is well understood by the engineers of the Big Tobacco companies.

According to the publication Designed for Addiction, a summary of the 2014 Surgeon General's report, "internal documents of the tobacco industry show that “cigarette manufacturers were aware that smokers who shifted to brands with lower . . . tar and nicotine yields . . . changed their smoking patterns . . . in a way that caused the lung to be exposed to greater amounts of toxicants and carcinogens. . . . This change in smoking patterns likely increased the deposition of smoke particles deep in the lung [the alveoli], which in turn, led to an increase in the risk of adenocarcinoma of the lung,” according to this year's Surgeon General's report. These “lowered tar levels . . . prompted smokers to smoke in a way that caused cells in the alveoli of the lung (where adenocarcinoma develops) to be exposed to greater amounts of toxicants and carcinogens.” There was an increase of the deposition of smoke particles deep in the lung (the alveoli), which increased both addiction and the risk of adenocarcinoma.

Such “alveolar deposition” does not occur, not at the same level anyway, with electronic cigarettes, rendering them less addictive, as well as less dangerous.

The lowered addiction potential of e-cigarettes is both good news and bad news, it appears. Good news since it lowers the possibility that e-cigs are creating “a new generation of nicotine addicts,” in the memorable words of certain vape bashers. Bad news since, according to Dr. Foulds anyway, it may lower their potential as smoking cessation devices.