By Barry Eitel
A congressionally mandated study released Tuesday found that electronic e-cigarettes can lead teenagers to start smoking normal cigarettes but also appear to help adults stop smoking.
The report, published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, is one of the most comprehensive studies ever about e-cigarettes, which were first introduced in the United States about a decade ago.
Smoking e-cigarettes, also known as “vaping”, is often seen as a less dangerous alternative to tobacco, and the devices are sometimes marketed as a way to help smokers kick the habit. While the researchers said the full health impacts of e-cigarettes are not known, they are likely far less dangerous than the toxins and carcinogens in conventional cigarettes.
The study, partly funded by the Food and Drug Administration, found that e-cigarettes can help adult smokers stop smoking. However, the study found that e-cigarette use among teens and young adults can lead them to get hooked on conventional tobacco products.
“E-cigarettes cannot be simply categorized as either beneficial or harmful,” said David Eaton, dean of the Graduate School at the University of Washington, Seattle, and chair of the committee that wrote the report, said in a statement.
“In some circumstances, such as their use by non-smoking adolescents and young adults, their adverse effects clearly warrant concern. In other cases, such as when adult smokers use them to quit smoking, they offer an opportunity to reduce smoking-related illness.”
The study found that the nicotine in e-cigarettes is still habit-forming, although the amount of nicotine consumed varies widely from product to product. Though vaping leads to increased particulate matter in the air, the study found that it is far less dangerous than second-hand smoke.
In general, the study suggested that e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional ones, but the researchers would not say they were without risks.
“Long-term health effects, of particular concern for youth who become dependent on them, are not yet clear,” the report said. “If e-cigarette use by adult smokers leads to long-term abstinence from combustible tobacco cigarettes, the benefit to public health could be considerable.”
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