The results of the study, conducted by researchers from the universities of Geneva and Auckland, have been published in the November issue of the European Respiratory Journal.
The report shows that electronic cigarette users and regular smokers have similar levels of cotinine, a product of the degradation of nicotine by the liver.
This is the first time cotinine data has been published after studies on electronic cigarette users in real-life conditions.
Previous laboratory data tracked inexperienced users who tested e-cigarettes briefly before their blood was tested for nicotine. These earlier studies showed that inexperienced users displayed only minor traces of nicotine, or none at all.
The new research conducted with 30 former smokers shows that experienced users in real life conditions receive a dose of nicotine comparable to the amount they would get from actual cigarettes.
In addition, the levels of cotinine in electronic cigarettes have double the amount of nicotine found in other products used by smokers to quit, such as patches, said Jean-François Etter, head of the study and researcher at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine in Geneva.
It’s not all bad news, though. Even if fake cigarettes still contain nicotine, Etter told news agency ATS that smokers who use them “are not exposed to some 4,000 toxic substances present in tobacco cigarettes.”