E-cigarettes are less toxic and safer to use than conventional cigarettes, according to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Scientists at University College London found that people who switched from regular to e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) for at least six months had ‘substantially’ lower levels of toxic and carcinogenic substances in their bodies.
During the study, which was funded by Cancer Research UK, researchers analysed the saliva and urine of long-term e-cigarette and NRT users and compared them to those of cigarette smokers.
They found that ex-smokers who switched to e-cigarettes or NRT had significantly lower levels of toxic chemicals and carcinogens in their body. They also found that those who used e-cigarettes or NRT while continuing to smoke did not experience the same reduction.
Dr Lion Shahab, the study’s lead author, said: ‘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.’
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, said: ‘Around a third of tobacco-caused deaths are due to cancer, so we want to see many more of the UK’s 10 million smokers break their addiction.
‘This study adds to growing evidence that e-cigarettes are a much safer alternative to tobacco, and suggests the long-term effects of these products will be minimal.
‘Understanding and communicating the benefits of nicotine replacements, such as e-cigarettes, is an important step towards reducing the number of tobacco-related deaths here in Britain.’
There has been much discussion about the safety of e-cigarettes and vaping in the last year, sometimes unfortunately ignoring the well known facts about the lethal effects of tobacco on smokers.
This study from University College London may go some way in helping balance the argument by showing that people who swapped smoking their normal cigarettes for either e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) for at least six months had levels of toxins and carcinogens in their body up to 97 per cent lower than those who continued to smoke normally. Continuing to smoke whilst using e-cigarettes saw this reduction fall by only 20 per cent.
The study comes after another British experiment found that the devices cause just two genetic mutations in the lung — compared to 123 from tobacco.
Although the perfect smoker remains an ex-smoker who neither uses conventional tobacco or e-cigarettes, this study does add to a large body of evidence now that shows using e-cigarettes and NRT is far safer than smoking and appears to have low risk when used long-term.
Research score: 4/5