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e-Cigarettes: Risky Business?

Kate Hughes

Posted on February 4, 2014

For decades, tobacco use has been one of the premier public health issues in the United States. In spite of years of anti-tobacco education and legislation, as of 2010, more than one quarter of all adults, and more than one third of young adults use tobacco in some form. Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are the just the latest in a long line of products for tobacco users. Supplying nicotine through inhaled water vapor rather than actual smoke, e-cigarettes have quickly developed a reputation as a less-harmful alternative to cigarettes and as a helpful smoking cessation aid.

While the addictiveness and long-term effects of e-cigarette use are unknown, there is a widespread belief that e-cigarettes are safer to use than traditional tobacco product. According to a study published in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, this belief may lead to increased experimentation with e-cigarettes among young adults.

Investigators from the division of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota studied whether there was a relationship between perceived notions about the harmfulness of e-cigarettes relative to cigarettes and subsequent e-cigarette use among young adults. “Participants who agreed e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking and those who agreed that e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes were more likely than those who did not agree to subsequently report experimenting with e-cigarettes. These associations did not vary by gender or smoking status,” says study lead author Kelvin Choi, PhD.

This link between beliefs about e-cigarettes and subsequent experimentation can be used to guide future anti-nicotine and anti-smoking campaigns that encompass the new technology of e-cigarettes.