Electronic cigarettes may be doing more harm than good, a new study says.ocean yamaha/Flickr

Electronic cigarettes may be doing more harm than good, a new study says.

E-cigarettes are normally considered to be safer than the traditional cigarettes and are promoted to help people quit smoking. However, a team of American researchers found that youngsters who tried e-cigarettes to quit smoking were smoking more nicotine and were not able to fully quit smoking. 

It was in 2008, when electronic cigarettes first hit the Korean markets. Researchers found that the device was successful in gaining popularity among minors, within a short period of three years. While only one percent smoked e-cigarettes in 2008, more than nine percent reported using the device in 2011.

"We are witnessing the beginning of a new phase of the nicotine epidemic and a new route to nicotine addiction for kids," senior author Dr Stanton A. Glantz, said in a statement.

For the study, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) analyzed prevalence of smoking among youth in Korea.  More than 75,600 teens, studying in grades seven to 12, participated in the study. Prevalence of smoking and smoking habits among the children was collected via the Korea Youth Risk Behavior Web-based Survey conducted in 2011.

Results showed that the device was unsuccessful in helping to quit smoking. The authors found that a significant number of teenagers in the study-  four out of five- were smoking both- traditional and the electronic cigarettes. 

"Some Korean adolescents may be responding to advertising claims that e-cigarettes are a cessation aid: those who had made an attempt to quit were more likely to use e-cigarettes but less likely to no longer use cigarettes. E-cigarette use was strongly associated with current and heavier cigarette smoking," the authors, while concluding their study, wrote.

While talking about the findings, Glantz also raised concerns about the popularity of e-cigarettes among the young generation across the world and slammed lack of proper regulation on the marketing and sale of the product based on age. 

Electronic cigarettes were invented by a Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik. The device, manufactured by a company named Ruyan first hit the Chinese markets in May 2004.  The device reached Indian markets in 2011.

An electronic cigarette works by vaporising a liquid solution, containing nicotine and other flavours. While regular cigarettes contain about 4,000 toxic chemicals and have been linked to a wide range of diseases like lung cancer, heart disease and stroke, the battery operated device has been viewed safer than the traditional cigarettes as they mostly provide less nicotine and do not produce the tar and carbon monoxide associated with smoking real cigarettes. Tar has been associated with lung damage and carbon monoxide can reduce the oxygen levels in the body.

However, the findings of the current study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health contradict the opinion of a group of experts. Scientists and experts who attended the E-Cigarette Summit at the Royal Society in London, this month said that e-cigarettes can save millions of lives claimed by tobacco smoking.