The Research Behind Electronic Cigarettes

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The following is a simple rundown of some of the more significant studies that have been done on electronic cigarettes.

May 2009
The FDA’s 2009 Evaluation of E-Cigs
The FDA performs a small study of two electronic cigarettes.  It found nicotine and tobacco specific nitrosamines and impurities in both devices.  This study becomes the cornerstone of anti-electronic cigarette arguments despite its small scope and limited context.  Read the study here.

November 2009
The First Sign Of Promise For E-Cigs
A survey of electronic cigarette customers finds that users that switched from smoking to electronic cigarettes reported significant improvement in health.  Even most users that had only replaced part of their smoking with e-cigs reported improvements in health.  87% of the respondents were age 31 or older.  Read the study here.

February 2010
A study at Virginia Commonwealth University determines that electronic cigarettes deliver virtually no nicotine to the users and are as effective as puffing from an unlit cigarette.  Many believe the results occurred because the study was poorly implemented.  A later study (October 2011) from the same researcher would counter this one.  Read about this study here.

December 2010
Boston Siegel’s 2010 E-Cig Report
A study at the Boston University of Public Health concluded that electronic cigarettes show tremendous promise in the fight against tobacco-related morbidity and mortality.  It goes on to conclude The evidence… suggests that electronic cigarettes are a much safer alternative to tobacco cigarettes.  Read the study here.

October 2011
The chief researcher behind the February 2010 study releases finding that contradict it. The study found that subjects using electronic cigarettes experienced common effects of nicotine and decreased nicotine abstinence symptoms. Ultimately, it is concluded that electronic cigarettes can likely create the experience users were looking for. Read about the study here.

November 2011
The 2011 E-Cig Smoking Cessation Pilot Study
The University of Catania in Italy performs a pilot study of the effectiveness of electronic cigarettes as a smoking cessation device.   The study gave electronic cigarettes to 40 smokers who had turned down free smoking-cessation assistance.   After six months, more than half reduced their regular smoking by at least 50 percent. Nearly a quarter quit entirely.  Read the study here.

May 2012
Dr. Polosa On Electronic Cigarettes As Cessation
The University of Catania pilot study leads to a global study of 300 smokers.  A preliminary look indicates that results are in line with that of the pilot study.  See a video interview about the study here.

July 2012
German scientists scan electronic cigarette vapor for toxins.  Out of 20 volatile organic compounds identified in tobacco smoke, 6 were detected in the electronic cigarette vapor.  These six compounds occurred in electronic cigarette vapor in much lower concentrations (between 2.5% and 39%) than in traditional cigarettes.  All compounds occurred at levels far below the FDA’s acceptable toxicity requirements.  Read about the study here.

July 2012
A survey of 2,649 current and former smokers found that 40% had heard of electronic cigarettes an 70% believe they’re less harmful than smoking.  The Schroeder Institute performed the survey and used it as a soap box for a warning about a product that still needs to be researched more.  Read about the survey here.

August 2012
A study from the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens, Greece finds that electronic cigarette use had very little impact on heart function.  Smokers experience increased heart rate and blood pressure and acute impairment of 4 parameters of cardiac function.  Electronic cigarette users only experienced a slight increase in blood pressure (far lower than that experienced by smokers).  All other See the presentation here.

September 2012
Withholding Support Of Electronic Cigarettes
A study from the European Respiratory Society finds that electronic cigarette use increases airway resistance in users with healthy lung function. Users with either chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma experienced no increase in airway resistance. The study is used immediately by some anti-electronic cigarette organizations and individuals as proof that electronic cigarettes are bad for users. Read about the study here.

October 2012
A study commissioned by National Vapers Club confirms the secondhand and environmental impact of e-cig use is minuscule. Volatile compounds occurring in e-cigs appeared at between one-tenth and one-thousandth of that in conventional cigarettes. Based on the study, New Zealand’s most experienced researcher on smoking, Dr. Murray Laugesen said, “E-cigarettes pose no discernible risk to public health.”  Read the study summary here.

January 2013
New Study: Kids Don’t Care About E-Cigs
A survey published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that less than 1% of adolescent males had tried electronic cigarettes despite 67% of them being aware of the products.  Those that had tried e-cigs were already smokers.  The researchers choose to focus on what they considered the more frightening piece of evidence — that 18% of respondents were willing to try electronic cigarettes if offered one by a friend.  Read the complete study here.

January 2013
Electronic Cigarettes and Schizophrenia
A year-long study investigated the effects of smoking reduction and cessation with electronic cigarettes in individuals with schizophrenia.  The results found that electronic cigarettes did not exacerbate psychosis or increase the effects of schizophrenia.  This is of particular interest in light of the side effects (rage, suicide, depression, etc) common to drugs prescribed to fight nicotine addiction.  Read the study here.

January 2013
A study found that from 2010 to 2011 awareness of electronic cigarettes among U.S. adults increased by 42% (from 40.9% to 57.9%).  Use among U.S. adults increased over the same period by a whopping 88% (from 3.3% to 6.2%).  The study concluded that roughly 1 in 5 smoking adults reported having tried electronic cigarettes and that continued surveillance of the sector is needed for public health planning.  Read the study here.

February 2013
No Acute Respiratory Effects From E-Cigs
A study comparing active and passive smoking and electronic cigarette use found electronic cigarettes delivered nicotine levels comparable to conventional cigarettes.  The study also found that electronic cigarette vapor had no acute or significant effect on respiration.  Second hand effects from smoking on lung function were higher than first-hand effects of electronic cigarette use.  Read the study here.

March 2013
More On The Stuff in Vapor
A study of 12 electronic cigarette brands finds only 4 of 15 carbonyls, 2 of 11 volatile organic compounds, 2 tobacco-specific nitrosamines, and 3 of 12 metals (all normally found in cigarette smoke).  Compounds that were found occurred between 9-fold and 450-fold lower than in cigarette smoke.  Some compounds were even found are rate statistically similar to or lower than in an approved nicotine medical inhaler.  Researchers believe this is a promising step towards confirming the health benefits of transitioning from smoking to electronic cigarettes.  Read the study here.

March 2013
Metal and Silicate Particles Found in Cartomizers
A study of cartomizer contents and aerosol finds low levels of metal and silicate particles.  Results were compared to that of conventional cigarette smoke.  Results suggest that quality improvements need to be made within the e-cig industry.  Some individuals have raise concern that the study is misleading.  All cartridges came from a single unnamed manufacturer, constituents studied are common to electronics and comparison to a medical inhaler would have been more appropriate, and the overall toxic profile of cigarette smoke far exceeds the scope of the study.  Read the study here.

April 2013
Electronic Cigarettes Don’t Cause Secondhand Vaping
According to French researchers, the lifetime of electronic cigarette vapor is roughly 11 seconds and electronic cigarettes represent no real risk of passive or secondhand vaping.  This is a huge difference from the 19-20 minutes cigarette smoke will generally last before completely dissipating.  Public health advocates have used the argument of passive vaping since electronic cigarettes first came to market.  This essentially destroys that argument.

May 2013
Study: E-Liquid Makes The Grade
A study finds that out of 20 bottles of e-liquid, all accurately represent their nicotine content, existence of nicotine-related impurities was very low to zero, and none contained either ethylene or diethylene glycol.  Half the e-liquids met medicinal standards set for nicotine products in the European Pharmacopoeia (a listing of active substances and their appropriate employment).  Even those that did not, impurities occurred below the level where they would be likely to cause harm.  Read the study here.

May 2013
Study: No Evidence E-Cigs Cause Cell Damage or Death
A study of 21 electronic cigarette brands found that only one at the highest dilution showed any signs of cytotoxicity (toxicity that cause cell death or damage).  The one brand that did show cytotoxicity occurred at two magnitudes lower than that of conventional cigarettes and is theorized to come from the flavor additives of that particular brand and not from any ingredients common to electronic cigarettes.  Read the study here.

June 2013
New Study: E-Cigs Help Smokers Quit Even When They Don’t Want To
A study of 300 smokers that had no intention of quitting found that providing them with electronic cigarettes for a period of 12 months resulted in an 8.7% quit rate.  The study came from e-cig researcher Dr. Riccardo Polosa at the University of Catania in Italy.  Quit rate among subjects increased (as high as 13%) when given higher and steady nicotine content e-cigs.  There’s little information on quit rates among smokers that don’t want to quit, but many researchers believe the spontaneous 12 month quit rate without assistance to this group is around 0.02%.  To compare, most accepted therapies only work 9-12% of the time when used by individuals that want to quit.  Read about the study here.

Heard of research we don’t have on this list?  Let us know in the comments.

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