More than 700 people have volunteered for the UW-CTRI study examining how people use e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes. Almost 30 participants have enrolled in the study and about half have attended their first two visits of the study, known as Exhale. The Exhale team is recruiting smokers who aren’t willing to quit at this time but are willing to participate in a scientific study that will advance the understanding of e-cigarette use.
After an initial study visit for orientation and baseline data gathering, Visit 2 features participants smoking or vaping on camera in an annex so researchers can analyze how they use the two different products. The small building is just outside the rear entrance to the UW-CTRI offices on Monroe Street in Madison. Only Madison participants have this opportunity, as UW-CTRI is not able to have an annex at its Milwaukee site.
Above: Exhale Study Participant Jordan Connor smokes on camera in an annex. Researchers will analyze the videos of smoking and vaping as part of the research study on how participants consume tobacco products.
Below: An exterior view of the annex.
Also during Visit 2, Exhale Research Specialist Jennifer Hawkins tests participants’ blood pressure, administers carbon monoxide and pulmonary tests, and records information on how participants are smoking, vaping, and consuming alcohol.
In between visits, participants share their use of products containing nicotine and alcohol by inputting information into smart phones.
It’s all part of a $3.7 million, 5-year grant from National Cancer Institute (NCI) and FDA to study smoking and vaping for five years. This research will provide in-depth, longitudinal information, including:
Understanding the relationship between vaping and nicotine dependence.
Whether vaping changes rates of smoking conventional cigarettes.
Health outcomes, such as evidence of exposure to carcinogens, as well as acute and long-term pulmonary health.
Attempts to quit smoking and the success of those attempts.
Specifically, researchers will identify and follow over time 150 participants who exclusively smoke cigarettes and 250 participants who both smoke and vape. Researchers will collect information on patterns of use of these products, levels of addiction, withdrawal symptoms, success quitting versus relapse, lifestyle factors, carcinogen exposure, and how one group of participants compares to the other over time.
“I think the variety of the experiences of participants is important to record,” Hawkins said. “Anecdotally, people have told me different ways of using cigarettes and e-cigs. People use e-cigs at different times for different reasons. For example, if they can’t or don’t want to smoke around certain people or places, they vape. If they’re having a stressful day, that may change their use.”
From left: Exhale Research Specialists Jennifer Hawkins and Amy Rodriguez-Reynolds
Meanwhile, Milwaukee Exhale Research Specialist Amy Rodriguez-Reynolds, Hawkins, and Student Salma Salama continue to call volunteers to screen them for the study. Kate Kobinsky is the study coordinator.
This research, led by Dr. Megan Piper and Dr. Doug Jorenby, will provide essential information to inform regulatory bodies, as well as researchers, clinicians, and tobacco users, about the patterns of real-world e-cig use and how such use is related to conventional smoking and the health risks caused by it.