Watching someone use e-cigarettes or vape pens may stimulate the urge to smoke in young adults, even in those who have never smoked before, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Centre in the US found that young adult smokers (those in the 18-35 age group) exposed to the use of traditional cigarettes, first-generation e-cigarettes or second- generation vape pens experienced an immediate, significant and lasting increase in the desire to smoke. “The new e-cigarettes, known as vape pens, are now larger and more powerful devices,” says Andrea King, professor at the University of Chicago. “They have low resemblance to cigarettes, so some people were hoping they might not produce the same urge to smoke,” says King. “But we found that they do stimulate the urge. Vape pens look different but they share too many salient features of the act of smoking, including inhalation, exhalation and hand-to-mouth behaviours,” she says, adding, “This makes them a potent trigger, encouraging people to smoke.”
The 108 subjects of the study, published in the journal Nicotine And Tobacco Research, ranged from very light to a pack-a-day smokers. On average, they smoked 8.7 cigarettes a day on six-seven days each week. More than 80% had used e-cigarettes and almost 30%had used one in the past month.
Over an hour-long session, the volunteers conversed with a member of the research team who pretended to be a fellow volunteer “randomly assigned” to consume different products as study tasks. During these interactions, the pretending volunteer smoked either a combustible cigarette or a vape pen. Both cues increased the desire among research subjects for a cigarette or an e-cigarette. The level and duration of desire to smoke among volunteers was the same whether they observed their “colleague” smoking a cigarette or using a vape pen.