Electronic cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular worldwide, inspite of the fact that they are still controversial, and there really hasn't been much research on them.
They came about "more as an industry marketing tool, rather than an approach I think to try to address tobacco use,"
says Dr. Edward Peters, Director of the Epidemiology Program at the LSU Health Sciences Center School of Public Health.
But now a new Italian study looked at people who smoke e-cigarettes but had no desire to quit smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes. And after a year this study published by PLOS ONE shows about 13% were not using tobacco at all, and the results were the same for people using either the nicotine or non-nicotine e-cigarettes. "So that does give some credibility or credence to - it's more than just the nicotine. It's the social or behavioral aspects of actually smoking.
"We really don't know safe these are. We are still delivering nicotine, which is still a stimulant, still a drug," says Dr. Peters. And the liquid used to create the e-cigarettes vapor hasn't really been studied for safety yet either he says.
But should people look to this new alternative to tobacco? Dr. Peters says, "I think about the concept of harm reduction. You're replacing one harm with another harm that is less."
One of the concerns though is that electronic cigarettes may promote smoking to young people, since most are sold with flavor. "Depending on how you market it, it could actually be more of a gateway or entry vehicle for young adults, adolescents, children because they may perceive it as less dangerous."