E-cigarettes ‘much safer than smoking tobacco’

12 February 2017

E-cigarettes are less toxic and safer to use compared to conventional cigarettes, according to new research.

In a study funded by Cancer Research UK, it was found that people who swapped smoking regular cigarettes for e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) for at least six months, had much lower levels of toxic and cancer causing substances in their body than people who continued to use cigarettes.

Researchers for the first time analysed the saliva and urine of long-term e-cigarette and NRT users, as well as smokers, and compared body-level exposure to key chemicals.

Former smokers who switched to e-cigarettes or NRT had considerably lower levels of toxic chemicals and carcinogens in their body compared to people who continued to use tobacco cigarettes. However, those who used e-cigarettes or NRT while continuing to smoke didn’t demonstrate the same marked differences, stressing that a total switch is required to decrease exposure to toxins.

Study lead author Dr. Lion Shahab said the findings add 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," he said in a statement.

"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, noted that around third of tobacco-caused deaths are due to cancer, and the organisation is keen 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," she added.

"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 the UK."

The full study was published in journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

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