According to a new study, the word 'cigarette' might appear in the term 'e-cigarette' but that is as far as their similarities extend. Assuming e-cigarettes are equal to cigarettes could lead to misguided research and policy initiatives.
Researchers at Northwestern University explained that comparing cigarettes to e-cigarettes can give us a false sense of what dangers exist because it misses the gap in understanding how people use them and how they can make people dependent.
Lead author of the study, Matthew Olonoff said, "Before we start making policy changes, such as controlling nicotine or flavour options in e-cigarettes, we need to better understand what role these unique characteristics have."
The commentary distils articles and published studies that compare e-cigarettes to cigarettes and supports the importance of investigating e-cigarettes as a unique nicotine delivery system.
There are enough key differences between cigarettes and these products, especially newer-generation devices, to show that they are not interchangeable nicotine delivery systems.
Key differences between the products include:
-The amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes can vary widely, which doesn't provide enough consistency of the device and smokers' behaviour.
-E-cigarette nicotine is ingested by vaping a liquid.
-The ability to stop and restarting e-cigarettes allows far more variability in intermittent use and nicotine dosing compared to a traditional cigarette.
-E-cigarettes are allowed in areas where cigarettes are prohibited.
-Teens are at greatest risk because e-cigarette use and marketing are on the rise.
"From a research perspective, when we call it a 'cigarette,' we know how many puffs are typically in a cigarette, how people use it, the amount of nicotine in it," Olonoff said. "Even though it has the word 'cigarette' in it, e-cigarettes are not the same thing."
E-cigarettes have been commercially available since the mid-2000s. The technology has been advancing rapidly, which makes it nearly impossible to set up-to-date policy initiatives.
The findings appeared in the Journal of Nicotine & Tobacco Research.