E-cigarettes may indeed help smokers quit, according to a new report from released by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), but at the same time the devices may pose a real threat of nicotine addiction -- and, possibly even a gateway to cigarette use -- for teens and young adults.
According to the report, which looked at the body of evidence on these devices so far, e-cigarettes are a far better alternative to conventional smoking, and can help smokers quit.
But young adults who start using e-cigs may be more likely to take up conventional smoking in the future, the NAS warned.
E-cigarettes are a multi-billion-dollar industry, and have become the most common tobacco product used by young adults.
“There is [some] limited evidence of e-cigs being effective as smoking cessation aids,” said Dr. David Eaton, chair of the committee that published the report. But, he cautioned, e-cigarettes have not been around long enough to assess their effect on long-term problems such as cancer and heart or lung disease.
Plus, he said, the studies the committee reviewed indicated that young adults using these products had a higher risk of smoking cigarettes at some point -- though the picture was not as clear when it came to whether their risks of becoming a lifelong smoker were higher if they used e-cigarettes.
Thomas Kiklas, co-founder of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association industry group, called the risk of moving to real cigarettes “absolutely untrue,” adding e-cigs are “absolutely vastly less harmful” than real ones.
The NAS report also notes that e-cigarettes contain fewer toxins than conventional cigarettes, but also that they likely contain a similar amount of nicotine, though this can vary depending on type of e-cigarette device used.