Electronic cigarettes: abuse liability, topography and subjective effects

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Abstract

Objective

To review the available evidence evaluating the abuse liability, topography, subjective effects, craving and withdrawal suppression associated with e-cigarette use in order to identify information gaps and provide recommendations for future research.

Methods

Literature searches were conducted between October 2012 and January 2014 using five electronic databases. Studies were included in this review if they were peer-reviewed scientific journal articles evaluating clinical laboratory studies, national surveys or content analyses.

Results

A total of 15 peer-reviewed articles regarding behavioural use and effects of e-cigarettes published between 2010 and 2014 were included in this review. Abuse liability studies are limited in their generalisability. Topography (consumption behaviour) studies found that, compared with traditional cigarettes, e-cigarette average puff duration was significantly longer, and e-cigarette use required stronger suction. Data on e-cigarette subjective effects (such as anxiety, restlessness, concentration, alertness and satisfaction) and withdrawal suppression are limited and inconsistent. In general, study data should be interpreted with caution, given limitations associated with comparisons of novel and usual products, as well as the possible effects associated with subjects’ previous experience/inexperience with e-cigarettes.

Conclusions

Currently, very limited information is available on abuse liability, topography and subjective effects of e-cigarettes. Opportunities to examine extended e-cigarette use in a variety of settings with experienced e-cigarette users would help to more fully assess topography as well as behavioural and subjective outcomes. In addition, assessment of ‘real-world’ use, including amount and timing of use and responses to use, would clarify behavioural profiles and potential adverse health effects.

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