The electronic-cigarette: effects on desire to smoke, withdrawal symptoms and cognition

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Dawkins, Lynne ; Turner, John J.D. ; Hasna, Surrayyah ; Soar, Kirstie (2012)

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are battery operated devices that deliver nicotine via inhaled vapour. Few studies have evaluated acute effects on craving and mood, and none have explored effects on cognition. This study aimed to explore the effects of the White Super e-cigarette on desire to smoke, nicotine withdrawal symptoms, attention and working memory. Eighty-six smokers were randomly allocated to either: 18mg nicotine e-cigarette (nicotine), 0mg e-cigarette (placebo), or just hold the e-cigarette (just hold) conditions. Participants rated their desire to smoke and withdrawal symptoms at baseline (T1), and five (T2) and twenty (T3) minutes after using the e-cigarette ad libitum for five minutes. A subset of participants completed the Letter Cancellation and Brown-Peterson Working Memory Tasks. After 20 minutes, compared with the just hold group, desire to smoke and some aspects of nicotine withdrawal were significantly reduced in the nicotine and placebo group; the nicotine e-cigarette was superior to placebo in males but not in females. The nicotine e-cigarette also improved working memory performance compared with placebo at the longer interference intervals. There was no effect of nicotine on Letter Cancellation performance. To conclude, the White Super e-cigarette alleviated desire to smoke and withdrawal symptoms 20 minutes after use although the nicotine content was more important for males. This study also demonstrated for the first time that the nicotine e-cigarette can enhance working memory performance. Further evaluation of the cognitive effects of the e-cigarette and its efficacy as a cessation tool is merited.
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