A new study out of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute has demonstrated that smokers who switch to e-cigarettes experience an immediate and drastic reduction in their levels of carcinogens and toxins. This reduction is seen as early as one week after making the switch to e-cigarettes and for some toxins, increases further at two weeks. Subjects were not followed longer than two weeks to determine whether these levels drop further after that point.
The study measured urine levels of 17 biomarkers of tobacco smoke exposure in 20 adult smokers, before and after they switched (partially or completely) to e-cigarettes.
The lead author of the study - Dr. Maciej Goniewicz, Assistant Professor of Oncology in the Department of Health
Behavior at Roswell Park - concluded: "To our knowledge, this is the first study with smokers to demonstrate
that substituting tobacco cigarettes with electronic cigarettes may
reduce exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens present in tobacco
cigarettes. This study suggests that smokers who
completely switch to e-cigarettes and stop smoking tobacco cigarettes
may significantly reduce their exposure to many cancer-causing
Most importantly: "The decline in toxicant levels was similar to the decline seen among tobacco users who quit smoking."
The paper explains that: "the observed decline in various urine toxicant biomarker levels in our study was similar to decline among smokers who have quit smoking completely and did not substitute with any other product. This observation suggests that e-cigarettes are not a significant source of exposure to those toxicants."
The reduction in urine levels of several of the toxicants and carcinogens among smokers who switched completely to e-cigarettes (i.e., quit smoking) were particularly striking. For example, at two weeks, levels dropped by 98% for 1,3-butadiene, 70% for crotonaldehyde, 87% for benzene, and 89% for acrylonitrile. Exhaled carbon monoxide levels dropped by 82% among these subjects.
The Rest of the Story
This study adds to the growing body of evidence that not only are e-cigarettes much safer than cigarettes but quitting smoking using e-cigarettes leads to immediate and dramatic improvements in health.
If anti-tobacco groups have any scientific integrity, this should put an end to their misleading propaganda claiming or implying that vaping is just as hazardous as smoking, that switching from smoking to vaping has not been shown to have health benefits, and that we don't know enough about the health effects of vaping to conclude that it is safer than smoking.
However, I suspect that these scientific findings will have little or no effect on the statements of anti-tobacco groups because I don't believe they are interested in the science. They are so threatened by the existence and success of vaping that they will ignore the facts in order to protect their long-standing ideology and perspective. That something which looks like smoking could possibly be beneficial for health is not within the mindset of these groups. That something which involves the inhalation of nicotine and which brings pleasure to many people might not make them sick or kill them is also not acceptable, and any such suggestion must be immediately exterminated.
From now on, we should refer to switching from smoking to e-cigarettes as "quitting smoking." From a health perspective, there does not appear to be a significant difference, at least in the short-term. The question "What do you call a person who switches from real cigarettes to e-cigarettes?" should be answered "An ex-smoker."
There is simply no evidence-based reason to discourage smokers from using e-cigarettes, especially if they have been unsuccessful quitting using the "FDA-approved" methods.
Recommendations from physicians that smokers not be encouraged to try e-cigarettes - like this one from Dr. Adam Goldstein at the University of North Carolina - are not scientifically tenable and are destructive to the protection of the public's health.