A newer version of e-cigarettes called vape pens do not look much like the traditional cigarettes, but findings of a new study involving young smokers suggest that seeing somebody use this device can spark the desire to smoke.

Less Resemblance To Traditional Cigarettes

Vape pens, or vaporizers, are battery-powered gadgets that work much like other e-cigarettes. These devices feature a heating element that turns liquid nicotine and flavorings into vapor that users inhale. Vape pens, however, produce larger and bigger clouds of vapor and look a lot less like the traditional cigarettes compared with the older versions of e-cigarettes.

E-Cigarettes As Smoking Cessation Aid

E-cigarettes are being hailed as a healthier alternative to smoking, an unhealthy habit that has been linked to long-term damage to DNA and is widely attributed for a range of deadly illnesses such as respiratory diseases and cancer.

The device is also being promoted to help smokers who are looking for a way out of their cigarette-smoking habit. Last year, a British medical group endorsed the use of e-cigarettes as an effective smoking cessation method. The Royal College of Physicians said that e-cigarettes help users more than harming them amid concerns that there is no conclusive evidence that can prove vaping's effectiveness and safety.

Findings of a new experiment, however, cast doubt on the potentials of these devices as a smoking cessation aid.

Increased Desire To Smoke Cigarette

For the new study published in the Nicotine and Tobacco Research on Jan. 12, psychiatry researcher Andrea King, from the University of Chicago, and colleagues randomly assigned 108 young adult smokers who currently smoked about nine cigarettes daily to interact with a person who was using either vape pens or traditional cigarettes.

Of the participants, 80 percent had already tried using e-cigarettes at least once, and nearly 30 percent had used at least one e-cigarette in the past month.

King and colleagues found that both scenarios led to a similar spike in the participants' desire to smoke a cigarette regardless if they had never tried using vape pen before. The participants did not experience a change in desire to smoke or vape when they watched the volunteer drink bottled water.

"These findings demonstrate that observation of vape pen ENDS use generalizes as a conditioned cue to produce smoking urge, desire, and behavior in young adult smokers," the researchers wrote in their study.

"As the popularity of these devices may eventually overtake those of first generation ENDS cigalikes, exposure effects will be of increasing importance."

Brian Primack, from the University of Pittsburgh who was not involved in the study, said that the findings suggest that being around vapers can make it more difficult for smokers to quit their habit.

"It may lead to more urges to smoke or more relapses," Primack said.

The study, however, was conducted involving a small size of participants and in a lab setting, which make it hard to know exactly how seeing vape pens may influence the urge to smoke among smokers in real-life situations.

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