As scientists continue to study the long-term impacts of using electronic cigarettes, one of the biggest public health concerns is the potential for these devices to be highly addictive with consequences as devastating or worse than traditional cigarettes. Professor Jean-Francois Etter from the University of Geneva teamed up with Dr. Chris Bullen from the University of Auckland to do an in depth study of vaping behavior and the long term effects of e-cigarette use. The current findings have been published in Addictive Behaviors.
In a follow-up interview, Professor Etter gave a more detailed description of his recent work in the e-cigarette field and revealed some interesting conclusions. Perhaps most controversial, Etter said that his research team had discovered that e-cigarettes are “not very addictive” despite popular myths that suggest otherwise.
This new study is highly significant because it is one of the first long-term studies to look at vaping behavior over the course of a full year. Participants are asked to fill out an extensive survey form and then the researchers do a follow up interview after twelve months to see how behavior has changed. Etter said that they are seeing a consistent pattern of positive behavior modification among people that use e-cigarettes. After a year, very few had relapsed to tobacco use and most participants had either fully kicked the cigarette habit or drastically reduced their smoking.
While some opponents of vaping believe that e-cigarettes are merely a new addiction that smokers embrace in place of their old tobacco habit, Etter disagreed. “Our data (and other studies) suggest that e-cigs are not very addictive, much less addictive than tobacco cigs,” he said.
Etter believes vaping works by satisfying the compulsion a smoker feels without the harmful consequences that would qualify the act as an addiction. Just as some smokers continue using nicotine gum for many years after they hang up the cigarette habit, the same is true for e-cigarette use. Continued use is not addiction, but merely a satisfaction of the original compulsion. In essence, it is harm reduction and it is highly effective.
Because e-cigarettes do not have the same devastating health consequences that people get with tobacco use, Etter feels confident that vaping long-term is not harmful “as long as they quit smoking”. He told the interviewer that tobacco is the chief danger and nicotine really wasn’t such a big problem. He also talked about the consequences for smokers that used both analog cigarettes and an occasional electronic cigarette. Etter said that the dual use was actually not such a bad thing after all. “Dual use seems to have two consequences: reduced smoking, and eventual smoking cessation.”
Ultimately, Professor Etter pointed to a need for continued research to learn more about how vaping impacts public health. So far, he feels optimistic and insists that this study is finding very positive results. If you are a current e-cig user over the age of 18, you can participate in the latest research study by visiting this website.
Do you agree that e-cigarettes are not addictive?