Why a landmark study suggests e-cigarettes are safer than smoking

Click to play video: 'Teenagers using less tobacco, but more e-cigarettes'
Teenagers using less tobacco, but more e-cigarettes
New Brunswick teenagers are using less tobacco but a lot more kids are turning to using e-cigarettes and vaping. As Global’s Shelley Steeves reports, that’s creating concern among some health care professionals in the province – Dec 7, 2016

If you’re on the fence when it comes to trading in your cigarettes for vaping, new research may push you over the edge: British scientists say that e-cigarettes are “very low risk” when it comes to toxins and carcinogens compared to traditional smoking.

The researchers behind the Cancer Research UK study say that people who swapped out smoking for e-cigarettes for at least six months had “much lower” levels of toxic and cancer-causing substances in their body.

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“We’ve shown that the levels of toxic chemicals in the body from e-cigarettes are considerably lower than suggested in previous studies using simulated experiments. This means some doubts about the safety of e-cigarettes may be wrong,” Dr. Lion Shahab, a senior lecturer in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, said.

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“Our results also suggest that while e-cigarettes are not only safer, the amount of nicotine they provide is not noticeably different to conventional cigarettes. This can help people to stop smoking altogether by dealing with their cravings in a safer way,” he explained.

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Shahab’s team says they’re the first to analyze saliva and urine samples of about 180 former and current long-term e-cigarette users and cigarette smokers to compare exposure to key chemicals.

They learned that people who smoke and vape don’t show the same differences – smokers need to cut out cigarettes altogether.

But for those who scrapped cigarettes, the scientists saw a 56 per cent to 97 per cent reduction in smoking-related carcinogens and toxic chemicals in the body compared to people still taking in tobacco.

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E-cigarette smokers lowered their intake of toxins by as much as their peers who butt out by relying on nicotine replacement therapies, such as the patch, gum, lozenges and sprays.

E-cigarettes are often touted as safer alternatives to cigarettes but they’ve also been tied to a spike in poisonings.

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The culprit, according to the CDC, is the liquid nicotine in the e-cigarettes. Sometimes, the liquid is contained in the device that’s disposable or rechargeable. In other instances, the cartridge is opened and refilled.

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If it isn’t done properly, or gets into the wrong hands, the liquid could cause skin or eye irritation, nausea or vomiting.

In some warnings, reports have even suggested that e-cigarettes have exploded.

Read Shahab’s full findings published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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