Consumers Unclear about Risks or Benefits of e-Cigarettes

The journal Tobacco Control published a study involving 64 smokers about the pros and cons of e-cigarettes conducted by a team of researchers in Scotland. Data reveals that smokers have differing opinions on the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as an alternative to real tobaccos.  This reflects what is going on in the medical community: health experts themselves are divided on the “appropriateness of promoting e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to the real thing.”

“Because e-cigarettes are relatively new products we are only beginning to learn about the health risks,” explains senior study author Amanda Amos, a researcher at the Center for Population Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, in an email.

E-cigarettes were designed to look like cigarettes and give smokers a more or less similar feel of smoking tobacco cigarettes.  However, it contains no tobacco which makes it safer compared to real cigarettes.  It makes use instead of a battery and heating element , and has a cartridge for holding nicotine and flavorings.  It also has a glowing tip which blows out a cloud of vapor. However, despite the absence of tobacco, e-cigarettes still do contain nicotine.  Hence, the differing views on its safety.

Amos and colleagues derived their data through 12 focused groups’ discussions and 11 individual interviews with active smokers and respondents who had quit smoking within the previous year, many of whom had smoked e-cigarettes.

Their findings are as follows: First, most participants admit that smoking is a form of addiction and quitting or getting out of this addiction entailed willpower.  Second, the majority viewed e-cigarettes as different from cigarette alternatives like nicotine patches or gums. They think of these alternatives as medical products prescribed to aid smokers from quitting the addiction.  However, they thought of e-cigarettes in two ways, with one group seeing it as an aid to quitting smoking and the other as a more satisfying alternative to cigarettes.

“This paper shows that the public’s view of e-cigarettes is far from being clear, with a great deal of ambiguity around the product and its intended use,”opines Dr. Ricardo Polosa, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Catania in Italy.

Polosa added: “Really, it’s not complicated at all. E-cigs are a much safer alternative to smoking and are intended for smokers who are unable to quit using other methods.”

However, since the study involved only a small group of respondents, it could not be taken to represent the entire public opinion.  It does however, validate the widespread confusion among consumers that has been observed in many countries, says Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, a researcher at Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens.

“Unfortunately, the end result is that smokers are discouraged from using e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking.”  Farsalinos, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “For those smokers who cannot switch with, or do not want to use the p************l medications, e-cigarettes can really be life-saving.”