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Italian study shows vapers less likely to develop cancer by '5 orders of magnitude'

According to new research by Italian scientists, vapers are over 50,000 times less likely to develop lung cancer as compared to their smoking counterparts.   The truly remarkable thing about this particular vaping study is that the research was conducted by a team of civil and mechanical engineers rather than the usual physicians.  Even the world-famous Dr. Farsalinos from the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in Athens, Greece, who is an active supporter of vaping as a tobacco harm reduction tool, openly endorses the Italian study.

The co-authors of the new report include Dr. Mauro Scungio, a research fellow at the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering of the University of Cassino.  Dr. Luca Stabile is an engineer and contributing researcher from the same institution.  And rounding out the team is Giorgio Buonanno.  Professor of Thermodynamics at the University of Naples and Adjunct Professor from the University of Cassino, as well. 


With such impressive credentials, one might think that this groundbreaking research will be taking mainstream media by storm.  However, Dr. Farsalinos is less than optimistic, which will be discussed later.  The Italian research paper entitled Measurements of electronic cigarette-generated particles for the evaluation of lung cancer risk of active and passive users is readily available for review in its entirety in the Journal of Aerosol Science.

The Italians also note in their paper that they are building upon previously published scientific research conducted by Dr. William E Stephens from Scotland’s University of St Andrews.  The title of the Scottish vaping study is Comparing the cancer potencies of emissions from vapourised nicotine products including e-cigarettes with those of tobacco smoke, which is published on the Tobacco Control BMJ website.


The original Stephens study suggests that heat-not-burn technology is the wave of the future because it is approximately 100 times less carcinogenic than the smoke from combustible cigarettes.  But the Italians have taken the Stephens research a step further, estimating that vapers are perhaps over 50,000 times less likely to develop cancer over the course of their lifetimes compared to smokers.

Overview of the Italian vaping study

Because the Italian research was conducted by a team of engineering experts rather than doctors, the paper is written in rather technical jargon that may be difficult for the average vaper to understand.  However, the basis of the study involves the measurements of particle size and surface area of both e-cig vapor and combustible tobacco smoke. 

  • The engineers used something called a Condensation Particle Counter to measure the total particle number concentrations down to 4 nanometers (essentially one-billionth of a meter).
  • They also used a contraption called a Fast Mobility Particle Sizer spectrometer to measure the particle size and distribution levels down to 5.3 nanometers.
  • And they used other highly technical devices with names like an Aerosol Electrometer, a Submicrometer Aerosol Generator, a Rotating Disk Thermodiluter, and a Thermal Conditioner Air Supply to monitor the particle and thermos dilution of the laboratory air quality.

After all was said and done, the Italian engineers determined that vaping is far less carcinogenic that even the vaping community originally believed.  The engineers even vaped the e-liquids at two different temperatures - 37 °C and 300 °C.  And they conducted the tests with both nicotine-enhanced and zero-nicotine e-liquids.  The “5 orders of magnitude” number will vary according to vaping parameters, the scientists also note.

"The corresponding ELCR value of mainstream EC aerosol (6.11–7.26×10−6) is 5 orders of magnitude lower than that of mainstream traditional cigarettes smoke, and also lower than the guideline values defined by EPA and WHO."

“The use of electronic cigarettes as an alternative to traditional cigarettes, in the described conditions and considering typical habits for Italian smokers, reduces the risk to get lung cancer from about 4×10−1 to about 7×10−6 (40,000 additional cases versus 0.7 additional cases over a population of 100,000). The exposure to second-hand aerosol, instead, determines a negligible increment of lung cancer cases (0.001–0.003 new cases over a population of 100 000). Higher risks are associated to ECs with nicotine due to the presence of NNN and NNK. In particular, NNK, As and Cd are the main contributors to the total ELCR for ECs with nicotine, while for ECs without nicotine, the main contributor is Cd.”

When Dr. Farsalinos uncovered the Italian research, he openly praised the engineering marvels on his website Ecigarette-research.org  However, he cautions both vapers and the Italians that the study will likely “generate ZERO publicity” from the mainstream media, simply because the overwhelming public opinion seems to have solidified around the mistaken assumption that vaping and smoking are one-in-the-same. 


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