A new study shows that smokers who switch to vaping greatly reduce their exposure to cancer-causing toxins. The study is one that vapers can use when confronted by doubters.
The study looked at current smokers, ex-smokers who have been vaping exclusively for at least six months, and also ex-smokers who use nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) like gum and patches. The researchers measured biomarkers of smoking risk in the participants.
Some of the most dangerous carcinogens were only found at extremely low levels, including the tobacco-specific nitrosamine (TSNA) NNAL, which was reduced 97 percent in the non-smoking nicotine users. NNAL has been linked with several cancers commenly found in smokers.
Measuring the presence of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) like acrolein, the results were similar. Acrolein, which is believed to cause lung cancer, was reduced by 67 percent among the non-smoking group.
Dual users — smokers who also vape or use NRT — were not found to have considerably lower levels of many of the measured toxins than full-time smokers. Only the nicotine users who had completely abandoned cigarettes seemed to benefit from vaping.
Prof. Peter Hajek of Queen Mary University of London compared this research to the infamous Portland State University study. The PSU researchers overheated atomizers until they produced formaldehyde, and then claimed that vapers may be inhaling dangerous toxins. “If the e-liquid is over-heated, it can produce high levels of aldehydes,” said Hajek. “In contrast to results from frying e-liquid in a laboratory, the results from human vapers presented here show that switching from smoking to vaping not only generates no increase in aldehyde levels, but in fact leads to a dramatic reduction.”
Dr. Michael Siegel of Boston University put it more simply. “The bottom line of this study is that there is now no scientific uncertainty: vaping is much safer than smoking,” Siegel told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The study was conducted by a group of experienced British and American researchers, including Ann McNeill, co-author of the Public Health England e-cigarette review, and cessation expert Robert West. The lead author was Lion Shahab of University College London. It was funded by a grant from Cancer Research UK, and published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
One of the authors, Maciej Goniewicz of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY, published a similar study last year. That study had a smaller sample size and slightly different methodology, but the results were very close to those of the current one.