LONDON (Reuters) – British scientists say they have found the best way yet to analyze the effects of smoking on the brain — by taking functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of people while they puff on e-cigarettes.
In a small pilot study, the researchers used electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, to mimic the behavioral aspects of smoking tobacco cigarettes, and say future studies could help scientists understand why smoking is so addictive.
E-cigarettes use battery-powered cartridges to produce a nicotine-laced vapor to inhale — hence the new term “vaping”.
Their use has rocketed in recent years, but there is fierce debate about the risks and benefits. Some public health experts say they could help millions quit tobacco cigarettes, while others argue they could “normalize” the habit and lure children into smoking.
While that argument rages, tobacco kills some 6 million people a year, and the World Health Organization estimates that could rise beyond 8 million by 2030.
Matt Wall, an imaging scientist at Imperial College London who led the study using e-cigarettes, said he was not aiming to pass judgment on their rights or wrongs, but to use them to dig deeper into smoking addiction.
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