People consider E-Cigarettes as safe as traditional cigarettes: But what studies say?

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that convert liquid containing nicotine into vapor that consumers inhale.

The perception that e-cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes fell between 2012 and 2014, a sign that fewer people see them as a safe alternative to smoking tobacco, a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests.

______

In 2012, the study found, half of those surveyed thought e-cigarettes were less harmful than cigarettes. By 2014, the number had dropped to 43%. During this period, advertisers often represented e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, the researchers note.

The study was based on the Health Information National Trends Surveys conducted by the National Cancer Institute. The nationally representative sample included smokers, former smokers and non-smokers. The study appears online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The researchers were surprised by the findings, given the mixed assessments of e-cigarettes’ risk compared to traditional tobacco products. Since they were introduced to the U.S. market in 2007, the devices have been pitched to consumers as potentially safer alternatives to cigarettes, or even a harmless way to stop smoking, given that e-cigarettes contain no tobacco, a known carcinogen that also causes pulmonary and heart disease.

On the other hand, some in public health fear that e-cigarettes could become a gateway to smoking tobacco for young people. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the world.

“It’s a good thing that information about e-cigarettes’ possible adverse health effects has gotten out there, especially considering there wasn’t a government or public health push during the study years,” says study leader Eric W. Ford, a professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management. “When misinformation about health effects about any substances becomes widespread, it is usually very hard to reverse the trend. That somehow happened here.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.7% of U.S. adults were using e-cigarettes in 2014. E-cigarettes were more likely to be used by current cigarette smokers and former smokers who quit smoking within the past year than former smokers who quit smoking more than one year ago and those who had never smoked.

There is no overriding consensus among researchers about whether e-cigarettes are indeed harmful to human health. There are, Ford explains, two research knowns. On the one hand, e-cigarettes eliminate many of the carcinogenic elements associated with smoking tobacco.

On the other hand, e-cigarettes may include flavorings and other ingredients containing the chemical diacetyl, which can cause bronchiolitis obliterans, or “popcorn lung,” the thickening and narrowing of the airways due to scarring of the lung’s air sacs. (The condition was so named because diacetyl was once used as a butter flavoring for microwavable popcorn.)

Earlier this year, in a much-anticipated move, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it would start regulating e-cigarettes the same way it regulates cigarettes – including banning their sale to anyone under age 18. The FDA has not yet proposed additional regulations around e-cigarettes.

Earlier this month, in the government’s strongest warning to date, the U.S. Surgeon General urged young people to avoid e-cigarettes altogether, calling them “unsafe.” Among children, teens and young adults, e-cigarettes are the most commonly used nicotine product.

For the study, the researchers combined three “cycles” of data from the 2012, 2013 and 2014 Health Information National Trends Survey, an annual survey of U.S. households sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. The surveys, which included 3,630 respondents in 2012, 3,185 in 2013 and 3,677 in 2014, were made up of about 60% non-smokers, 20% former smokers and 20 percent current smokers. The study also found that awareness of e-cigarettes jumped from 77.1% in 2012 to 94.3 percent in 2014.

The researchers also looked at whether awareness of e-cigarettes among current smokers influenced their attempts at quitting or intention to quit. They found no association. While some smokers may independently use e-cigarettes to try and quit, doctors are not advising patients to do so. They typically suggest trying nicotine patches or chewing gum.

Smokers who perceived e-cigarettes as less harmful than traditional cigarettes were less likely to have attempted to quit in the previous year.

___

Electronic cigarette

An electronic cigarette or e-cigarette is a handheld electronic device that vaporizes a flavored liquid. The user inhales the vapor. Using e-cigarettes is often called vaping. The liquid in the e-cigarette, called e-liquid, is usually made of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, and flavorings. Some e-liquids do not contain nicotine.

The health risks of e-cigarettes are uncertain. While they are likely safer than tobacco cigarettes, the long-term health effects are not known. They can help some people quit smoking, but when used by young people are related to later tobacco smoking. For quitting smoking, they have not been shown to work better than safer, regulated nicotine replacement products. Their value in tobacco harm reduction is unclear, with tentative evidence that they could help lower tobacco-related death and disease. No serious adverse effects have been reported in trials. Less serious adverse effects include throat and mouth irritation, vomiting, nausea, and coughing. Non-smokers who use nicotine-containing e-liquids risk addiction to nicotine.

E-cigarettes create an aerosol, commonly called vapor, generally containing nicotine, flavors, glycerol and propylene glycol. Its composition varies across and within manufacturers, and depends on the contents of the liquid, the electrical power of the device, and user behavior, among other factors. The vapor can contain toxicants and traces of heavy metals at levels permissible in inhalation medicines, and some potentially harmful chemicals not found in tobacco smoke at concentrations permissible by workplace safety standards. However, chemical concentrations may exceed the stricter public safety limits.

The modern e-cigarette was invented in 2003 by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik, and as of 2015 most e-cigarettes are made in China. Since they were first sold in 2004 their global use has risen exponentially. In the UK users have increased from 700,000 in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2015. In the United States e-cigarettes are used by a significant portion of young people. and adults. Reasons for using e-cigarettes involve trying to quit smoking, reduce risk, or save money, though many use them recreationally. A majority of users still smoke tobacco, causing concerns that dual use may “delay or deter quitting”. About 60% of UK users are smokers and roughly 40% are ex-smokers, while use among never-smokers is “negligible”. Because of overlap with tobacco laws and medical drug policies, e-cigarette legislation is debated in many countries. A European directive in 2016, set limits for liquids and vaporizers, ingredients, and child-proof liquid containers. As of August 2016, the US FDA extended its regulatory power to include e-cigarettes. As of 2014, there were 466 brands of e-cigarettes with global sales of around $7 billion.

___

Online:

http://www.medindia.net/

http://i.huffpost.com

https://en.wikipedia.org/