Researcher discusses pros and cons of e-cigarettes

Reagan Ritterbush

Although more extensive research is needed, some studies have shown correlations between the younger generation’s use of e-cigarettes and long-term harmful effects on their health, according to a visiting psychiatry professor Wednesday.

Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, a psychiatry professor from Yale University, discussed her continued research on whether or not e-cigarettes are beneficial for millennials at the fourth annual Texas Center of Regulatory Science Invited Speaker Series.

“E-cigarettes are on the rise, and I want to make sure the youth aren’t getting pulled into a product that isn’t any better than a normal cigarette,” Krishnan-Sarin said.

Krishnan-Sarin said she has found the harmful effects of e-cigarettes to outweigh the benefits because there is so much about the product that is currently unknown. She said an obvious negative side effect of the product is that because younger users believe it’s better for them, they don’t limit how much they smoke, which can lead to nicotine addiction and the use of other, worse drugs that contain nicotine.

“Because of the development of brains, adolescents tend to be more sensitive to nicotine and its effect is stronger,” Krishnan-Sarin said. “If e-cigarettes lead the youth to hazardous drugs in order to curb their nicotine addictions, then using them would essentially be just as [bad] as regular cigarettes.”

Despite her negative findings of her research, Krishnan-Sarin said she has also seen a few beneficial qualities of e-cigarettes. One benefit she found was a decline in diseases associated with tobacco among e-cigarette users because of the lack of the hazardous ingredients found in regular cigarettes.

“This decline could save lives, but we are not yet sure at what cost,” Krishnan-Sarin said.

Daniel Krietzberg, health education graduate student, said e-cigarettes research is important for students in his field of study because they can gain a better understanding of the risks. 

“Through Krishnan-Sarin’s research, UT Health will know the influence new tobacco products have on its students,” Krietzberg said. “It’s easier to limit the e-cigs if we know their effect on primary users.”

Anna Wilkinson, development and pilot manager of the regulatory science center, said she hopes Krishnan-Sarin’s research leads to regulations on e-cigarette companies that benefit today’s youth.

“Students are the primary target for e-cig companies, and at their age, it’s easy to get bombarded with new and interesting products,” Wilkinson said. “At this point, there isn’t enough evidence to prove that e-cigs are good for students, and it’s better to keep them safe from the influences of it.”