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According to a recent study by the Penn State College of Medicine, former smokers find e-cigarettes to not be as addictive as conventional cigarettes.
Though participants in the study said they use e-cigarettes as often as they formally did conventional cigarettes, the former smokers said that e-cigarettes have given them more control over their cravings and impulses to smoke, researchers noted.
"We found that e-cigarettes appear to be less addictive than tobacco cigarettes in a large sample of long-term users," said professor Jonathan Foulds, the lead researcher of the project at Penn State College of Medicine.
The study, recently published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, employed an online questionnaire that surveyed more than 3,600 participants. All were former smokers of conventional cigarettes and current smokers of e-cigarettes.
The study showed that dependence on e-cigarettes is much different:
- Participants were more likely to wait longer for their first smoke of the day, 45 minutes on average compared to 27 minutes when they used cigarettes.
- Two out of five would wake in the middle of the night to smoke a cigarette, but only about 7 percent continued to do so with e-cigarettes.
- About one-third had strong cravings to use their e-cigarettes, compared with more than nine out of 10 when they smoked cigarettes.
- About one-quarter reported being irritable or nervous when they can't use e-cigarettes, versus more than 90 percent who recalled feeling that way as cigarette smokers.
"There are a couple of reasons why e-cigarettes might create less addiction to nicotine," Foulds said.
The way people use e-cigarettes might help explain the difference.
"Because people don't have to light an e-cigarette, they are under less pressure to smoke in concentrated bouts," Foulds said.
"When you smoke cigarettes, you smoke it in one go. You go outside from your workplace and you take 10 puffs, you smoke it until it's three-quarters done and then you throw it away," he said. "With e-cigs, they take two or three puffs, and then wait 10 or 15 minutes and have another two or three puffs. It's kind of like they're grazing on it, rather than binging on it."
The results of the study might "lead to improvements in cessation treatment for both traditional cigarette smokers as well as electronic cigarette users," said Patricia Folan, director of the Center for Tobacco Control at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y.
The research team received funding from Penn State Social Science Research Institute and Cancer Institute, the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health and the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.