E-cigarettes: Helping smokers quit, or fueling a new addiction?

Story highlights

  • The e-cigarette industry is worth $2.7 billion worldwide
  • E-cigarettes satisfy urges for nicotine whilst removing exposure to the tar and toxins when burning
  • Some are concerned about e-cigarette use among adolescents

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(CNN)It's a portable piece of technology providing seemingly bottomless access to a drug craved by more than 1 billion people worldwide -- nicotine. That craving is caused by smoking tobacco but is now being increasingly satisfied by e-cigarettes and the trend to "vape" instead of smoke.

The selling point is the clean image e-cigarettes purvey by removing the simultaneous exposure to the tar and thousands of chemicals found in the tobacco smoke of regular cigarettes -- removing the cause of lung diseases as well as other tobacco-related conditions.
Tobacco kills almost 6 million people each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and a growing number of people are now "vaping" instead of smoking, resulting in industry worth $2.7 billion worldwide.
    Since their introduction in 2006, e-cigarettes have become commonplace among smokers trying to kick their habit, with a third of smokers trying to quit in the United Kingdom turning to e-cigarettes to aid them, according to one study. But some critics argue these electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) are fueling a new addiction to nicotine -- particularly among young people experimenting with them.

    Allure for adolescents

    "While ENDS may have the potential to benefit established adult smokers ... [they] should not be used by youth and adult non-tobacco users because of the harmful effects of nicotine and other risk exposures," says Tim McAfee, director the Office on Smoking and Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Exposure to nicotine can harm adolescent brain development."
    Studies conducted by the CDC through its Adult and Youth National Tobacco Surveys found increased experimentation by youth trying out e-cigarettes but not conventional cigarettes. The gadgetry and flavors associated with the devices is suggested as a reason behind this, with fears of them acting as a gateway into real tobacco smoking.