While electronic cigarettes eliminate a lot of the health risks associated with traditional tobacco, they are just as addictive as their tobacco packed cousins, according to a recent study.
The study, released July 9 in the American Chemical Society’s journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, examines 17 commercially available electronic cigarettes and found nine of them contained the most addictive type of nicotine.
Researchers looked at the impact of three different kinds nicotine used in electronic cigarettes. Najat Saliba, professor in analytical chemistry at the American University of Beirut, led the study and concluded that the level of nicotine listed on the packaging didn’t always match up with results in the lab.
Instead of burning tobacco, electronic cigarettes vaporize nicotine, flavorings and other substances. Many of the electronic cigarette brands tested contained so-called “free-base,” which is the only type of nicotine absorbed into the body, making it highly addictive.
In an email to CBS News last week, Saliba warned that “products with very high nicotine delivery may make quitting E-cigs particularly difficult should users decide to try.”
But is the addictiveness of electronic cigarettes a particular cause for concern in the context of reducing harm from tobacco overall?
Speaking to The Daily Caller News Foundation on July 27, Chris Snowdon, director of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said electronic cigarettes still reduce the health risks commonly associated with traditional tobacco.
“The whole point of tobacco harm reduction is to give people a substitute for the thing they are addicted to,” Snowdon said. “Opiates are also addictive, which is why we give people methadone instead of heroin. It is not about addiction, it is about health, and nicotine is not damaging to health.”
While nicotine does contain carcinogens, electronic cigarettes are considered to be dramatically safer than conventional cigarettes. Snowdon argued that nicotine should be far from the main concern when considering the dangers of smoking.
“Not only is nicotine not damaging to health but over a billion people worldwide enjoy using it, and so if a product can deliver nicotine without delivering cancer it should be seen as a very welcome development,” Snowdon said.
As of yet, there is no evidence that electronic cigarettes can cause long-term health damage. Furthermore, the largest study of its kind ever conducted in Europe found that there was no evidence of electronic cigarettes having a gateway effect of transferring to tobacco.