Back in 2013 I wrote an article titled, Are E-Cigarettes Healthy?  At the time that I wrote the article I took a look at a significant amount of existing research out there on e-cigarettes and vaporizers. When I wrote the article I was reluctant to put my chips in on the e-cigarette movement, given the limited research. Nearly four years have gone by since I wrote that article and my thoughts on e-cigarettes have changed. They can be an effective tool at helping people quit cigarette smoking and still provide nicotine with far less carcinogens. Here’s why.

What The E-Cigarette vs Cigarette Study Looked At

A recent study looked at regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and other nicotine replacement therapies (NRT). The study analyzed urine and saliva samples for bio-markers of nicotine and other carcinogenic compounds. The particular compounds are well known in traditional cigarettes to severely increase the risk for cancer. The study also looked at whether or not e-cigarettes were an effective means at helping people quit traditional cigarettes.

How This Study Worked

The study took 181 adults with an average age of 37.8. 39.2% of the participants were women and the average age of the participants when they started smoking was 17.8.  Participants were split into separate groups: regular cigarette smokers, former smokers who had used either e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy for at least six months, and those who continued to smoke but also used either e-cigarettes or other nicotine replacement therapy.

As I mentioned before, the researchers analyzed urine and saliva for different products often found in cigarettes. These compounds included:

  • nicotine
  • tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines (TSNAs)
  • 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1 butanol (NNAL)
  • a number of different metabolits of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

TSNAs, NNAL, and VOCs are well documented to increase the risk if cancer in cigarette smokers.

What This E-Cigarette Study Found

  • The NRT only and e-cigarette only users had markedly lower NNAl levels than regular cigarette users, dual combustible cigarette NRT, and dual combustible cigarette/e-cigarette users; results for TSNA were similar.
  • Former smokers who used only e-cigarettes had 97% lower NNAL levels compared to smokers. Results for NRT users were similar.
  • Former smokers who used e-cigarettes had the lowest levels of VOC in their system; NRT users had the second lowest levels.
  • Those people who used both NRT and cigarettes or e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes had similar urine levels of VOC.
  • Total levels of nicotine detected in the urine were similar to all forms of nicotine consumption and not statistically significant.

Why This Study Was Significant Compared To Past E-Cigarette Studies

This was one of the first studies to compare nicotine levels and carcinogens in long-term e-cigarette or NRT users. This study also showed what many people also echo, e-cigarettes are a lot safer than the use of traditional cigarettes and can be an effective tool at helping people to quit cigarette smoking. 

My take: e-cigarettes are obviously safer than smoking traditional cigarettes. Does long term e-cigarette use increase cancer risks over the lifetime at all or are they completely benign? That remains to be seen.

Have you ever used e-cigarettes as a means to make the switch from regular cigarettes?

Sources:

Vega, C. MD., et. al. Are E-Cigarettes As Safe As Nicotine Replacement Strategies? Medscape. WebMD LLC. 23 March 2017. Web. 29 August 2017.