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Does vaping cause cancer?

From outlandish rumors about e-cigarette vapor allegedly being laced with formaldehyde to wildly false accusations that the e-liquids used in vapes contain anti-freeze, the vaping industry often gets a bad reputation.  In fact, the spreading of disinformation over the past few years has led many daily smokers to rethink their decision to quit by switching to vaping.  Sadly, many are still active, daily smokers, no doubt.

One of the most asked questions by vaping newcomers is, “Does vaping cause cancer?”  To be clear, there are multiple research studies which prove that vaping is up to 99 percent less carcinogenic than smoking. 

Related Article:  53% of Americans mistakenly think nicotine is carcinogenic, says new study

In a 2019 vaping study entitled Comparing the cancer potencies of emissions from vapourised nicotine products including e-cigarettes with those of tobacco smoke (BMJ Tobacco Control), lead author Dr. William E Stephens compares the carcinogenic levels of e-cig vapor, combustible tobacco smoke, and the smoke derived from Heat-not-Burn technology. After conducting thousands of tests using hundreds of different devices, the Stephens research team found that electronic vaping devices are the least carcinogenic of all three options at less than one percent.

“The aerosols form a spectrum of cancer potencies spanning five orders of magnitude from uncontaminated air to tobacco smoke. E-cigarette emissions span most of this range with the preponderance of products having potencies<1% of tobacco smoke and falling within two orders of magnitude of a medicinal nicotine inhaler; however, a small minority have much higher potencies. These high-risk results tend to be associated with high levels of carbonyls generated when excessive power is delivered to the atomiser coil.”
 
“Samples of a prototype heat-not-burn device have lower cancer potencies than tobacco smoke by at least one order of magnitude, but higher potencies than most e-cigarettes.”
 

Related Article: Vaping is 99% less carcinogenic than smoking, says research

Need more proof?  A second vaping study led by Dr. Maciej Goniewicz of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, determined that smokers who switch to vaping will immediately reduce their carcinogenic exposure by as much as 57 percent within the first seven days of making the switch.  After only two weeks, the number jumps to 63 percent.

“In total, 45% of participants reported complete abstinence from cigarette smoking at 2 weeks, while 55% reported continued smoking. Levels of total nicotine and some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon metabolites did not change after switching from tobacco to e-cigarettes. All other biomarkers significantly decreased after 1 week of using e-cigarettes (p < .05). After 1 week, the greatest percentage reductions in biomarkers levels were observed for metabolites of 1,3-butadiene, benzene, and acrylonitrile. Total NNAL, a metabolite of NNK, declined by 57% and 64% after 1 and 2 weeks, respectively, while 3-hydroxyfluorene levels declined by 46% at week 1, and 34% at week 2.”

In an effort to maintain a non-biased opinion, the formerly mentioned Stephens study notes that the only real health risks associated with vapor products are carbonyls that can accidentally be produced when vaping at excessively high temperatures.  In fact, the formaldehyde myth began because Portland State University researchers published a bogus research paper in 2015 that was almost instantly debunked by scientists around the world. 

Debunking the vaping and formaldehyde myth

After claiming that e-cig vapor contains formaldehyde, scientists and academics in the United States, Greece, and Europe began delving into the Portland research.  They quickly determined that the heating temperatures used in the Portland experiment were so high that no human could possibly endure them.  And because the temperatures were so high, the vaping device essentially burned its metallic coil, atomizer, and wick which unintentionally produced vapor filled with aldehydes. 

In 2017, world-class cardiologist Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos thoroughly debunked the Portland University report by replicating the experiment using the proper vaping temperatures.  And guess what?  No formaldehydes or aldehydes of any kind were discovered in the e-cig vapor.  The Farsalinos study entitled E-cigarettes emit very high formaldehyde levels only in conditions that are aversive to users: A replication study under verified realistic use conditions is still published in the medical journal Science Direct.

Related Article: New Farsalinos vape study debunks old NEJM ‘formaldehyde myth’

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