Researchers at Otago University, in Wellington, New Zealand, have recently analyzed a series of recent studies that compared biomarker levels in e-cigarette users (vapers) to those from tobacco smokers and concluded that vaping is considerably less hazardous than smoking.
After analyzing past studies on the impact of electronic cigarettes on our health, Prof. Nick Wilson, Dr. Coral Gartner and Prof. Richard Edwards agreed that assessing the potential health risks posed by electronic cigarettes compared to analogs is a very complex issue. Evidence suggests vapers take longer inhalations than do smokers and many models of advanced vaporisers have adjustable features such as variable voltage/wattage and air flow, not to mention that experienced vapers often customize their coil resistance, nicotine strength and flavorings of their e-liquid. Under these circumstances, estimating the potential harmful effects of vaping by looking only at the aerosol and composition of the e-liquid didn’t seem like the ideal solution, so the Otago University researchers decided to look at something they thought was more likely to capture the impact of e-cigarettes on users – biomarkers.
Their review of scientific literature focused on only very recent biomarker studies (starting from January 1st 2015), regardless of e-cigarette type or generation used. Their analysis found that these studies had come up with a diverse range of results, but all suggested lower levels of risk for vapers compared to tobacco smokers. “In particular, the risk associated with carbon monoxide seems likely to be close to 0% or a few percent at most,” the three researchers wrote in a recent blog post. “However, preliminary evidence (ie, one study by Carnevale et al (7)) suggests that the effect of vaping on four other inflammatory markers of likely relevance to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and respiratory disease may be at least half that of tobacco smoking.” As for cancer-related toxicants, results were variable, from 0% to 23% of the levels observed for tobacco smokers, with most studies reporting between 14% and 23%. These levels are pretty high compared to those reported in other studies, but the Otago University scientists admit “that some of these toxicants could be due to unreported dual use with smoked tobacco (and even exposure to secondhand smoke).”
“It seems likely that if smokers shift entirely to vaping their risk of chronic disease would be expected to decline,” researchers concluded. “But if they stay vaping long-term – then they may still be exposed to some notable level of toxicants that are hazardous in terms of cancer, cardiovascular disease and possibly long-term respiratory disease. The safest option for smokers using vaping to reduce their health risk would be to limit the duration of dual use with cigarette smoking (ie, switching completely to vaping as soon as possible) and to also limit the total duration of vaping with a goal of reaching abstinence from both smoking and vaping, wherever possible without relapsing to smoking, which represents the greater risk to health.”