The e-cigarette industry has received a new wave of endorsement as a new study conducted by scientists at the University College London, funded by Cancer Research UK has indicated that e-cigarettes are far less toxic and therefore inherently safer to use than smoking a traditional cigarette.

The study is the latest in a long-line of research that is attempting to debunk the supposed harmful long-term effects of vaping. The study was conducted using a sample of 181 people, analysing their saliva and urine. The study used two groups – smokers and non-smokers who had used e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy products such as patches and nasal sprays for a period of at least six months. The study also used a third group, who had continued to smoke whilst using NRT products or e-cigarettes. E-cigarette only users had 97% lower levels of the toxic chemical known as NNAL that is a significant contributor to cancer. However, those who were either full-time smokers and those who smoked cigarettes, as well as ecigarettes, did not have a noteworthy difference in levels of the toxic chemical. In addition to NNAL, the presence of other extremely toxic organic compounds including the highly carcinogenic acrylamide and cyanide-releasing acrylonitrile were not found in excess in the bodies of those who were e-cigarette users.

The lead author Dr Lion Shahab from University College London has commented regarding the study:

‘Our study adds to existing evidence showing that e-cigarettes and NRT are far safer than smoking, and suggests that there is a very low risk associated with their long-term use. 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. 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.’

Moreover, this study only goes to show how much more evidence is needed to convince a nation that e-cigarettes are generally that much safer. Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, a senior health behaviours researchers at Oxford University and the managing editor of the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group has replied to the study:

‘We still need more studies on the long-term safety of electronic cigarettes, but this study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting electronic cigarettes are considerably safer than smoking regular cigarettes, as is using NRT long term. Cigarettes are uniquely deadly and smokers who switch to electronic cigarettes or long-term use of NRT should remember that the harm from cigarettes comes from the tar, and not the nicotine.’

When research such as this is published, it only adds to the industry’s desire to express a positive change of direction for the health and well-being of Brits. A spokesman for the UK Vaping Industry Association has added:

‘Vaping has significantly grown in popularity in the UK in the past few years. There are now nearly three million vapers. We urge the Government to recognize that this represents a huge public health opportunity, and work with the vaping industry to encourage more smokers to switch from tobacco to vaping.’

Feature image credit: goldyg/Shutterstock 

Chris Polenski
Chris Polenski