How dangerous are e-cigarettes compared to smoking? Landmark study compares them

Rob Waugh
Contributor
rex

It’s been credited by some with helping people to stop smoking – but the health risks attached to vaping remain unknown and unproven.

This week, a new study suggested that e-cigarettes could cause cancer.

The data, based on mouse experiments and experiments with human cells carried out by researchers at New York University, suggests that nicotine itself might cause cancer, and that vaping carries a cancer risk.

But how dangerous are they really?

Separately, a huge, landmark research paper also published this month analysed 800 previous studies into the health effects of e-cigarettes – and found that they are far less dangerous than cigarettes.

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The 600-page report by America’s National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (an independent government body) says that smokers who switch to e-cigarettes will benefit.

E-cigarettes may carry health risks, but these are nowhere near the risks of continuing to smoke tobacco.

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The report says, ‘There is conclusive evidence that completely substituting e-cigarettes for combustible tobacco cigarettes reduces users’ exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens present in combustible tobacco cigarettes.’

It echoes the findings of a British report by Public Health England which said the devices are ‘95% safe’ – but ‘must be clearly positioned as products that help adult smokers to quit.

However, the report adds, “There is conclusive evidence that exposure to nicotine from e-cigarettes is highly variable and depends on product characteristics (including device and e-liquid characteristics) and how the device is operated.

“Most e-cigarette products contain and emit numerous potentially toxic substances.”

Cancer Research UK says, ‘Studies show that levels of key harmful chemicals are lower in people who switch from tobacco to e-cigarettes. There are still some questions about long-term safety, as e-cigarettes haven’t been around that long. But the evidence is pointing towards them being far less harmful than tobacco. ‘

‘In terms of safety, e-cigarettes are likely far closer to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT has long been known as a much safer alternative to smoking.’

‘The most important thing for your health is to stop using tobacco.’