E-Cigarettes Less Addictive Than Cigarettes

By Traci Pedersen
October 20th, 2021
Medically reviewed by Paul Sietes, MD.
E-Cigarettes Less Addictive Than Cigarettes

For former tobacco smokers, e-cigarettes appear to be less addictive than regular cigarettes, and this could shed new light on the role that various nicotine delivery devices play on addiction, according to a new study published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

“We found that e-cigarettes appear to be less addictive than tobacco cigarettes in a large sample of long-term users,” said Jonathan Foulds, professor of public health sciences and psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine.

More than 3,500 current users of e-cigs who were ex-cigarette smokers completed the Pennsylvania State Cigarette Dependence Index and the Penn State Electronic Cigarette Dependence Index. The online surveys were designed to assess participants’ previous dependence on cigarettes as well as current dependence on e-cigs.

The findings showed that a higher nicotine concentration in e-cig liquid, as well as use of advanced second-generation e-cigs (which are more efficient), predicted dependence. Consumers who had used e-cigs longer also appeared to be more addicted.

“However, people with all the characteristics of a more dependent e-cig user still had a lower e-cig dependence score than their cigarette dependence score,” says Foulds. “We think this is because they’re getting less nicotine from the e-cigs than they were getting from cigarettes.”

Although many e-cig smokers are trying to quit smoking, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved them for this use; therefore they cannot be marketed as a smoking cessation product.

“This is a new class of products that’s not yet regulated,” says Foulds. “It has the potential to do good and help a lot of people quit, but it also has the potential to do harm. Continuing to smoke and use e-cigarettes may not reduce health risks. Kids who have never smoked might begin nicotine addiction with e-cigs. There’s a need for a better understanding of these products.”

“We don’t have long-term health data of e-cig use yet, but any common sense analysis says that e-cigs are much less toxic. And our paper shows that they appear to be much less addictive, as well. So in both measures they seem to have advantages when you’re concerned about health.”

The findings also have implications for developing e-cigs for smoking cessation.

“We might actually need e-cigarettes that are better at delivering nicotine because that’s what’s more likely to help people quit,” says Foulds.

Source: Penn State

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.