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An international survey has found 80 percent of people who use e-cigarettes do so because they consider the products less harmful than traditional cigarettes. The researchers say e-cigarettes may have the potential to help smokers quit, Medical News Today reports.

The survey of almost 6,000 people in four countries (the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada) found 73 percent of Americans surveyed were aware of e-cigarettes. Respondents ages 18 to 24 were most likely to be familiar with the products, according to the researchers from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York.

The researchers reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that 16 percent of respondents had tried e-cigarettes. Of those who used the products, 80 percent said they did so because they were considered less harmful than traditional cigarettes, while 75 percent used them to help reduce their smoking, and 85 percent to help them quit smoking.

“This study provides valuable insights into the use and attitudes surrounding e-cigarettes among smokers,” researcher Richard O’Connor, PhD, noted in a news release. “However, questions remain regarding the impact of these devices in nonsmokers, such as what potential exists to induce nicotine addiction in non-smokers and/or maintain addiction in current smokers who might otherwise stop smoking.”

E-cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine in the form of a vapor, which is inhaled by the user. They usually have a rechargeable, battery-operated heating element, a replaceable cartridge with nicotine or other chemicals and a device called an atomizer that converts the contents of the cartridge into a vapor when heated. E-cigarettes often are made to look like regular cigarettes.

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