A new study has indicated that electronic cigarettes are less toxic and far safer than smoking traditional tobacco products.
In a study funded by Cancer Research UK, researchers from University College London found that former smokers who moved on to vaping e-cigarettes experienced “substantially reduced” levels of carcinogens and toxins compared to those who continued smoking.
By analysing the saliva and urine of 181 people, the research measured levels of 26 cancer-causing chemicals among smokers who had switched entirely to e-cigarettes.
The research team found that former smokers who switched to vaping for six months or more had very low levels of some of the worst carcinogens found in tobacco smoke.
University College London professor, Dr Lion Shahab - who led the research - said the results may come as a surprise to many smokers.
“Less than half of current smokers in the UK believe that e-cigarettes are less harmful,” he said. “What we found is that using e-cigarettes alone results in very low exposure to toxins and carcinogens.”
NNAL - a chemical heavily linked to lung cancer - was 97.5% lower in former smokers who had switched to vaping.
A number of other carcinogens, including acrylonitrile, butadiene, and acrolein, were also significantly reduced.
The findings follow a recent report from the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) which found that e-cigarettes can potentially double a smoker’s chances of quitting.
Data from Healthy Ireland reveals that 29% of smokers currently use e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting smoking - however a separate report has found that smokers in the UK are switching to vaping faster than any other country.
According to the report from EY one smoker has switched to vaping every four minutes in the UK since 2013.
Public health policy
The Irish Vape Vendors Association (IVVA) - which represent retailers of vaping products - has called on the Irish Cancer Society to follow their UK counterparts and back the study.
The IVVA is also calling for government policy changes to encourage people to make the switch away from tobacco based cigarettes.
Changes would include support and information on vaping products within the HSE's published information on quitting smoking - and reversing the ban on e-cigarettes at HSE facilities.
“The EU regulations will slow innovation in this fast paced industry anyway, but knowing how much of a positive these products are for smokers, it makes little sense to hold them hostage,’’ said IVVA administrator Gillian Golden.
The chairman of Action on Smoking and Health Ireland (ASH Ireland), Dr Patrick Doorley said any new research information from “well-established and credible bodies who do not have a vested interest" in what is a relatively new product should be welcomed.
He warned however that e-cigarette users are still digesting a “reduced level of toxic chemicals” and warned that longer term research is needed to realise the full health implications of vaping.
A separate study released last week warned that vaping could raise the risk of heart disease.
University College London researcher Robert West told New Scientist he would “bet my house on e-cigarettes being substantially safer than smoking."
He said long-term studies like those that eventually proved smoking causes lung cancer will ultimately provide the best evidence on e-cigarettes, however that level of data will not be available for approximately 20 years.