Electronic cigarettes are devices which look like regular cigarettes but which use a battery to deliver varying amounts of nicotine in the vapour that is inhaled by the user. Using an e-cigarette is called ‘vaping’ (equivalent to ‘smoking’ in regular cigarettes). The popularity of e-cigarettes has been growing tremendously since they were first introduced in 2004.
Not much trial data is available as regards e-cigarettes. There are three studies which have been published and these have inferred that e-cigarettes can reduce withdrawal symptoms and craving for regular cigarettes. A survey was conducted on users of e-cigarettes produced by The Electronic Cigarette Company (TECC) and Totally Wicked E-Liquid (TWEL), two of the most popular brands in UK. The study aimed at characterisation of the use of electronic cigarettes and the effects on users. The websites of these two brands were used to select the participants numbering 1347. Participants were from 33 different countries with seventy two percent being European. The participants were of an average age of 43 years with 96% being whites and 70% being male. The survey was displayed on the website of the University of East London.
The survey covered the following:
1. The demographic details of the participant like gender, age, country, ethnicity and education
2. The current smoking status, that is whether the participant has never smoked, is a ex-smoker or is currently a smoker.
3. Pattern of smoking tobacco involving questions to test how far the participant is dependant on cigarettes through the Fagerstrom Test , how long they had quit smoking, etc.
4. Use of e-cigarettes such as the strength, flavours, amount used, duration of use, reasons for use, dependence on e-cigarettes etc.
5. Participants personal experience on use of e-cigarette like taste, effects on craving, satisfaction from use, acceptance by others, side effects, effects on respiration etc.
The results that were culled from this survey are as follows:
The initial introduction to e-cigarettes was through the internet and participants learnt more about them through personal contacts. Nearly half of the participants needed to use the e-cigarette within half an hour of waking and just short of a quarter of them required it within 5 minutes of waking. Participants who had quit, required the e-cigarette sooner after waking up than those currently smoking, required higher doses of nicotine and have been using the product for longer.
Over half of the participants stated that they use e-cigarettes in the same way as traditional cigarettes. Over three fourths of them began using e-cigarettes as an alternative to regular cigarettes. Twenty two percent gave ‘other reasons’ for switching to e-cigarettes which included for health reasons and to give up smoking.
Three fourths of participants said they had not smoked cigarettes for substantial periods of time after commencing e-cigarettes and another 14% claimed their smoking had decreased with the use of e-cigarettes. Over 91% found a reduced desire to smoke and 70% didn’t have the desire to smoke any longer.
Users were generally satisfied with the product and felt healthier and had improved breathing. There were no significant differences in responses among genders except in the case of less important aspects like flavours.
Only few reported side effects, the most common of which was irritation of the throat.
The researchers inferred that people mostly use e-cigarettes instead of tobacco cigarettes. The users found that e-cigarettes helped them to restrict their tobacco use by curbing their desire for it. They also gained satisfaction from using e-cigarettes and consider them healthier than traditional cigarettes.