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E-cigs more addictive than tobacco, says study

 | August 3, 2015

American researchers say vapers inhale more nicotine than do cigarette smokers.


KUALA LUMPUR: A recent study by the American Chemical Research in Toxicology (ACRT) found that e-cigarettes, or vapourisers, are more addictive than conventional cigarettes.

This is because users of vaporisers inhale higher amounts of nicotine than do tobacco smokers, according to the study.

Vaping is becoming increasingly popular in Malaysia. The vaping devices produce dense flavoured nicotine-heavy vapours and are widely believed to be less dangerous than cigarettes, as the vapours produced lack the 300 carcinogens found in a typical cigarette.

The ACRT report also indicates that nine out of 17 commercially available e-cigarettes contain the more addictive of two variants of nicotine.

In a recent press interview, Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) President Ashok Zachariah Phillip acknowledged that e-cigarettes could be useful for smokers wishing to reduce or quit tobacco smoking.

However, he added that there was a strong potential for addiction to nicotine.

Nicotine can be found in two forms: free-base and protonated nicotine. Free-base nicotine is the more addictive form and is the kind predominantly used in vaping.

“Free-base nicotine can be absorbed by the body and is the most truly addictive form of nicotine for our brains,” the ACRT researchers said.

According to Amer Siddiq Nordin, a nicotine addiction specialist from Universiti Malaya, it takes merely 0.15mg of nicotine to cause addiction.

“In a normal cigarette, it is often reported that one to two miligrammes of nicotine is introduced from smoking a cigarette,” he said. “Research conducted by Joseph DiFranza and colleagues has found that it takes only one cigarette to get you hooked for life.”

According to ACRT, labelled liquid nicotine concentrations in commercial products are often inconsistent with measured nicotine.

Should vapourisers be regulated?

“Yes, we need some sort of regulation, preferably yesterday,” said Amer. “The longer we wait, the more issues crop up and the more difficult it is to successfully regulate these products.”

According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report last September, the number of reported cases involving nicotine poisoning has been steadily increasing.

“Reports from the United States and the United Kingdom indicate that the number of reported incidents involving nicotine poisoning has risen substantially with the use of Electronic Nicotine Delivery systems,” said the WHO report.

Amer also said that nicotine’s status as a controlled substance in Malaysia warranted regulation.

“It is a class-C drug and therefore needs to be dispensed by licensed personnel. The way it is being sold and distributed at present appears to be wrong and needs to be looked into by relevant authorities,” he said.

“E-cigs unfortunately introduces nicotine to minors in an unregulated market like Malaysia, providing an alternative method to obtain, use and experiment with the substance.

“At the very least, they should be regulated like cigarettes wherein the underaged are forbidden to purchase and use them.”

Ashok agreed, saying that the MMA would like to see vaping regulated to prevent young people from taking up the habit.

“The marketing, advertising and sale of e-cigarettes should be regulated,” he said. “The MMA would like to see authorities being on the side of caution and to take preventative measures.”


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