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How e-cigs are helping scientists to understand smoking addiction


The Huffington Post has written an interesting article that discusses British Scientists who believe they have found the way to study smoking addiction.

The scientists are using magnetic resonance imaging  (MRI) scans of people vaping.

The e-cigarettes apparently mimic so well the behavioural aspect of tobacco smoking, and because 99.9% of vapers are former smokers, researchers are using them instead of tobacco smokers in the confined space of the MRI room.

Researcher Matt Wall from the Imperial College of London who has been leading the study said he wasn’t prepared to judge the rights or wrongs of e-cigarettes, as that wasn’t his aim, instead he wanted to use them to dig deeper into the issues of smoking addiction.

Referring to NRT use and the limited success that many smokers have with it, Wall believes smoking addicts are addicted to much more than simply the nicotine.  He said: "There's something unique about the drug (nicotine) and the delivery system -- the smoking -- combined which makes it really, really addictive, And by analyzing the brains of people "smoking" or "vaping" e-cigarettes, scientists can study the brain effects of the behavioral and sensory repertoire of smoking". They are not looking at nicotine per se, more the behaviors associated with it.

Prior to the invention of the e-cigarette it was impossible to study this behavior using an MRI due to non-smoking policies and the confined space of the MRI scanner. But because e-cigarettes produce water vapor and do not burn, Wall's team were able to record brain activity with each inhalation. 

Though the study wasn’t large enough to draw any firm conclusions from, further larger studies are now being planned. 

14th November 2014, 12:51