Vaping is now under investigation by a team of scientists at the University of Alberta.
Headed by Dr. Barry Finnegan of the Department of Anesthesiology, the E-Cigarette Research Group is looking into the sociology of vaping. There currently are many unknowns about the consequences of the surge in e-cigarette use among those aged 15 to 24 will be, but Dr. Finnegan and his team hope to address some of them in their study.
“We’re interested in how youth perceive e-cigarettes and how that influences their perception around conventional cigarettes,” Dr. Finnegan said.
According to Dr. Finnegan, the use of e-cigarettes among this age group is particularly high. This could be due to some of the factors known to influence the use of cigarettes: such as peer pressure, accessibility, and social factors, Dr. Finnegan said.
Dr. Finnegan is particularly concerned about the role of tobacco companies, citing as an example the advertisement for Blu eCigs, a brand of e-cigarette owned by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.
“Look at the commercials for Blu eCigs, and you’ll see the return of the Marlboro man,” Dr. Finnegan said. “Given that the economic control of the e-cigarette industry is in the hand of tobacco companies, I am somewhat suspicious as to what exactly their long term goal is in selling e-cigarettes and e-liquids to youth.”
From a public health perspective, Dr. Finnegan is concerned that a rise in e-cigarette use may eventually lead to a rise in conventional cigarette consumption.
“It’s pretty clear that the tobacco industry is extremely well-funded, and that the tobacco industry employs numerous individuals at all levels of government to protect their commercial interests,” he said. “So I would expect considerable opposition to any attempt to interfere with their marketing activities.”
Dr. Finnegan also has concerns with the lack of standardization and quality control in e-liquids, and the wide variety in vaporizer designs. There are too many variables to make reliable statements about the health effects of e-cigarettes, and thus Dr. Finnegan suggests more standardization and more information for consumers.
“It is impossible to know (the physiological effects of e-cigarette use) unless we know the specifications of the device being used,” he said.
Students who vape can participate in the E-Cigarette Research group with their work by contacting the group via Facebook, Twitter, or email. Subjects will be asked questions about their e-cigarette use and about their personal perspectives. Participants are given a $20 Tim Horton’s gift card.