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More evidence has found that e-cigarettes and vaporized nicotine products (VNPs) are safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes. Researchers at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RCPI) recently published “Exposure to nicotine and selected toxicants in cigarette smokers who switched to electronic cigarettes: a longitudinal within-subjects observational study.” The study is available online at the journal Nicotine Tobacco Research.
The study reports “that nicotine exposure remains the same, while exposure to specific carcinogens and toxicants is reduced, among smokers who switch from tobacco cigarettes to electronic cigarettes.”
The researchers examined “20 healthy adult daily smokers [who] were provided with electronic cigarettes and 20 tobacco-flavored cartridges.” The participants averaged being tobacco cigarette smokers for 12 years and “95% of them said they planned to quit smoking.”
The researchers examined the “participants’ urine levels of seven nicotine metabolites and 17 biomarkers of exposure to carcinogens and toxicants present in cigarette smoke over a two-week period.” The study focused on biomarkers that “are indicators of the risk of several diseases, including lung cancer.”
In 12 of the 17 measured biomarkers, researchers found “significant declines in exposure to toxicants when participants changed from tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes.” The decline in toxicant levels is comparable to decline present when quitting cigarettes.
Lead author, Maciej Goniewicz, PhD, PharmD, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Health Behavior at RPCI, stated “I think this is the study that many researchers and public health advocates and regulators were waiting for, and users were waiting for. I think this is really one of the first studies looking at the users.”
“We were able to measure 17 different chemicals in the body … and that the data are really strong, even after one week of using electronic cigarettes, the level[s] went down,” said Goniewicz. “In our study, we recruited smokers, so we recruited the group that is the only group that can potentially benefit from electronic cigarettes. For smokers who are currently smoking and have tried quitting before and did not [succeed] this might be the life saving device.”
Co-author Neal Benowitz, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco echoed Goniewicz, stating “our findings suggest that e-cigarette use may effectively reduce exposure to toxic and carcinogenic substances among smokers who completely switch to these products.”
The study is just the latest publication that shows the positive health effects of e-cigarettes and VNPs. Public Health England found in 2015 that chemicals in e-cigarettes and VNPs are “95% less harmful than cigarettes.” A June 2016 qualitative study provided more evidence of tobacco harm reduction, finding the e-cigarettes effectiveness and the lesser harm posed to health by the products among the top reasons why individuals were encouraged to use such products.
In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) applied deeming regulations to e-cigarettes and VNPs, classifying these new products as tobacco products. As studies continue to show, it is necessary for policy makers to understand that e-cigarettes and VNPs are not the same as tobacco cigarettes and are, in fact, significantly safer than tobacco cigarettes, ultimately providing the potential to save millions in health care costs. These products are becoming the most effective tool in encouraging smokers to quit, and will provide significant health gains in the way of tobacco harm reduction. Policy makers should listen to the evidence that is continuing to grow, and ensure that these products are not hindered from being available on the market or to users.