According to a small study conducted by researchers at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, inhaling vapor from electronic cigarettes exposes users to considerably lower levels of carcinogens than smoking.
Unlike previous studies on the toxicity of e-cigarette vapor and its potential to cause cancer, this study didn’t focus on the analysis of the e-liquid and vapor in unrealistic lab conditions – using smoking machines, analyzing vapor samples that a human vaper could never inhale, etc.. Instead, it attempted to asses the effect vaping has on real smokers interested in quitting, also known as transitioning smokers.
Lead author Maciej Goniewicz and his team recruited 20 healthy adult daily smokers who had been using tobacco cigarettes for an average of 12 years and were smoking an average of 16 cigarettes per day. 95% of them said they planned to quit smoking, and had unsuccessfully attempted to do so in the past, using various cessation methods. Test subjects were provided with electronic cigarettes and 20 tobacco-flavored cartridges, and their urine samples were tested over a period of two weeks by an international team of scientists.
Researchers measured levels of seven nicotine metabolites and 17 biomarkers of exposure to carcinogens and toxicants present in cigarette smoke. Their analysis revealed that while the nicotine metabolites remained unchanged among the majority of study participants – suggesting that e-cigarettes deliver nicotine effectively – the levels of the 17 toxicants and carcinogens measured dropped significantly after just one week of switching to e-cigarettes. For 12 of these 17 chemicals, the decline in was similar to the decline seen among tobacco users who quit smoking.
“Toxins and carcinogens we measured in the body almost disappeared – the body cleared the 17 different chemicals we were looking for,” Goniewicz said. “They are safer, less toxic. It’s the first time we have very strong evidence that we will be able now to give (smokers) that the answer is, yes , this you should consider a transition, a substitute for your tobacco cigarette that will save your life.”
“This study suggests that smokers who completely switch to e-cigarettes and stop smoking tobacco cigarettes may significantly reduce their exposure to many cancer-causing chemicals,” added Goniewicz, an Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park.
“Our findings suggest that e-cigarette use may effectively reduce exposure to toxic and carcinogenic substances among smokers who completely switch to these products,” said co-author Neal Benowitz, Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “Future research will help determine whether e-cigarettes reduce the risk of disease among dual users — those who both smoke and vape — and those who use electronic cigarettes for a long time.”
The study was recently published in the Nicotine and Tobacco Research journal, but its authors already plant to follow it up with a longer-term research on a larger test subject pool (likely in the hundreds), to better determine the effects of vaping on smokers trying to quit.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study that demonstrates that substituting tobacco cigarettes with an e-cigarette may reduce user exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens otherwise present in tobacco cigarettes,” researchers concluded.
This is very good news for vaping, especially since the study comes from a well-known cancer prevention institution. but I can’t help wondering whether it would have changed the FDA’s deeming regulation, had it been published prior to August 8th. And here’s the strange bit: the study was conducted between March and June 2011, but was received by the Nicotine and Tobacco Research journal in March 2016. While I understand that the research couldn’t be submitted immediately, five years is an awfully long time…