Monday, June 13, 2016

VTCI's Bickel to Study E-Cigarettes

E-cigarettes: The right alternative?
Warren Bickel, the Virginia Tech-Carilion Research Institute researcher who has done ground-breaking work on the causes of and responses to addiction, has a new target: vaping products. Those are the faux cigarettes that have become so popular, especially among young adults.

Warren Bickel
Bickel's group is one of 10 infour countries sharing a $15 million National Cancer Institute grant to conduct the studies. Beckel's share is $2.63 million and he will use it to look at how people decide to use vapes over conventional high-tar cigarettes. E-cigarettes are addicting because of their level of nicotine, but they do not contain tar or carbon monoxide, which are the primary killers in cigarettes.

Bickel, who directs VTCI’s Addiction Recovery Research Center, says, “No current research method can adequately estimate ... the effects of a new regulation of the introduction of a new tobacco product" on future use. 
Bickel's group will introduce the Experimental Tobacco Marketplace, using smokers as volunteers for controlled experiments. The volunteers will choose conventional cigarettes, vaporized nicotine, or other tobacco products under various conditions. The experiment will "simulate real-world circumstances,” and give an idea why smokers make their choices.

Four factors will be important in the test: nicotine dose, extra costs, smoke-free environments, and flavors.

 “Maybe it will only take one of those variables to influence a person’s decision," says Bickel, "and maybe that’s the first step toward managing a continuously growing public health problem.”

Researchers point to a debate in the medical and public health communities about whether vaporized nicotine products will prove to have a net positive or negative impact on population health. This project could move that debate forward.

Bickel says the ultimate goal of the study "is to develop forecasting models to estimate the population health impact of different product regulatory schemes with the result of decreasing tobacco related mortality and morbidity.” 

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