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A new study finds electronic cigarettes to be less toxic as compared to traditional, combustible cigarettes.
Funded by Cancer Research UK, the cross-sectional study examined the levels of exposure to nicotine, tobacco-related carcinogens, and toxins among various users of nicotine including:
- Traditional tobacco cigarette smokers
- Former cigarette smokers with long term usage of electronic cigarettes only
- Former cigarette smokers with long term usage of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) only
- Long term users of both tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes
- Long term users of both cigarettes and NRT products
According to Cancer Research UK, the study is the first of its kind to analyze “saliva and urine of long-term e-cigarette and NRT users, as well as smokers.” Previous research has examined the toxicity of e-cigarettes by assessing the “potentially harmful chemicals within the products themselves, or the vapor they produce.” The study examined tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) and volatile organic compound (VOCs) metabolites, compounds known for their “smoking-related toxicological and carcinogenic risks.” The authors conclude “long-term NRT-only and e-cigarette–only use, but not dual use of NRTs or e-cigarettes with combustible cigarettes, is associated with substantially reduced levels of measured carcinogens and toxins relative to smoking only combustible cigarettes.”
The findings affirm the 2015 Public Health England study finding electronic cigarette use as “around 95% safer than smoking.” A 2016 study found that electronic cigarettes could provide tobacco harm reduction to smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The authors concluded that smokers who used e-cigarettes to reduce cigarette smoking resulted “marked improvements in annual exacerbation rate as well as subjective and objective COPD outcomes.”
This study is merely one of many that continue to provide data proving the efficacy of electronic cigarettes and their role in tobacco harm reduction efforts. Despite the growing body of evidence that finds e-cigarettes to be significantly less toxic than tobacco cigarettes, departments of the federal government are claiming the opposite. In December the Surgeon General erroneously reported that e-cigarette use by young people was “now a major public health concern,” despite numerous studies that find the opposite.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco cigarettes are accountable for “more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States,” and an estimated 16 million Americans are living with smoking-related diseases. Tobacco cigarettes carry a total economic cost of over $300 billion a year, making it one of the most expensive, preventable costs associated with health care in the United States. Electronic cigarettes could mitigate these costs, as one study estimated Medicaid savings due to e-cigarette “adoption, and the resulting tobacco smoking cessation and harm reduction” totaled $40 billion in 2012.
Going forward, policy makers should pay attention to the growing body of literature that provides evidence to the safety and harm reduction properties electronic cigarettes have provided to millions of smokers, worldwide. Lawmakers should understand the effects that the Food & Drug Administration’s deeming regulations will have on the entire e-cigarette industry, and the possibility that tobacco harm reduction could be eradicated by one governmental department if the regulations are not altered significantly.