FRIDAY, Jan. 13, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- A type of e-cigarette called a vape pen can trigger the urge to smoke among young adults as much as seeing someone smoke cigarettes, a new study contends.
"The new e-cigarettes, known as vape pens, are now larger and more powerful devices," said study director Andrea King.
"They have low resemblance to cigarettes, so some people were hoping they might not produce the same urge to smoke," said King, director of the clinical addictions research laboratory at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
"But we found that they do stimulate the urge," King said in a university news release.
Battery-operated "vape pens look different but they share too many salient features of the act of smoking" -- such as inhaling, exhaling and hand-to-mouth behaviors, she explained.
"This makes them a potent trigger, encouraging people to smoke," King explained. "They made the young adults in our study want to smoke."
The impact of seeing vape pens in use is roughly equal to watching someone light up a cigarette, she said.
The study of smokers aged 18 to 35 found that seeing someone else use either traditional cigarettes, first-generation e-cigarettes or second-generation vape pens caused "an immediate, significant and lasting increase in the desire to smoke."
The study was published Jan. 12 in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.
"We've made real progress on reducing smoking in our country. We've done a good job banning indoor smoking. We rarely see two-pack-a-day smokers like we used to. Yet seeing people smoke in public remains common," King said.
"Our study focused on a classical Pavlovian trigger, as seeing someone smoke is a known potent cue that can induce others to smoke," she noted. "We did not expect that the vape pen would be as potent a cue as the regular cigarette, but it was as potent."
The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about e-cigarettes.