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New Study by University College London: E-cigs lower cancer-causing toxins

A new study published February 6 in the Annals of Internal Medicine is indicating that smokers who switch to vaping will substantially reduce their levels of toxicity and carcinogenic intake.  However, the fine print also shows that they have to give up smoking completely – no dual use allowed.

Lead researcher Lion Shahab is associated with the University College London and King's College of the United Kingdom, and the study was funded by the Cancer Research UK organization.   A total of 181 participants were specially recruited from among five, very specific groups, including:

  • Smokers who have never vaped
  • Former smokers with over 6-months of consistent use of e-cigs only (no smoking)
  • Former smokers with over 6-months of consistent use of other nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) without the dual use
  • Long-term (over 6 months) dual users of both combustible cigarettes and electronic cigarettes
  • Long-term dual users of both combustible cigarettes and other NRTs.


Over a period of several weeks, the participants were asked to provide biomarker samples of both urine and saliva for regular analysis.  The staff of scientists were measuring the levels of nicotine, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and tobacco-specific N-nitrosamines (TSNAs) within each participant throughout the course of the cross-sectional study.

Big Pharma takes note: E-cigs have the same low-toxicity levels as other NRTs

What the researchers discovered is that e-cig-only and NRT-only users had the same levels of nicotine in their systems as the other three groups, but their levels of cancer-causing toxins were significantly less.  Of further importance is the assertion that e-cig-only users had the very same, ultra-low toxicity levels as participants using more conventional NRTs like “the patch” and nicotine gum. 

“This finding is consistent with the assertion that completely switching to e-cigarettes significantly reduces the risk of future cancers compared with continued smoking. E-cigarettes are a safer alternative to smoking tobacco in the context of developing smoking-related cancer."
- Lead researcher Lion Shahab

But not everyone in the anti-vaping community views the scientists’ conclusions as totally positive.  In an article published in Health Day, Dr. Norman Edelman of the American Lung Association uses Shahab’s e-cig study as new ammunition against the vaping industry.  Edelman takes issue with the study’s claim that dual users experience no reduced levels of toxicity compared to 100% smokers/never vapers.

"A lot of people who promote the use of e-cigarettes say, 'Well, if smokers use e-cigarettes they'll cut down on smoking and they'll get fewer toxins in their body.' But in this study, that wasn't true," Edelman said. "The e-cigarette users who also smoked got as much toxins in their body as those who just smoked."

But Gregory Conley of the American Vaping Association does not necessarily agree.

"This study should serve as a wake-up call to tobacco control activists who have spent the past eight years spewing hostile and outright incorrect rhetoric towards vapor products," said Conley. Smokers continue to smoke because "they've been misled to believe that vaping may be as hazardous as smoking."

Conley also seems to believe that, through continued research, scientists will ultimately be able to clearly determine that dual users of both electronic cigarettes and combustible products are indeed experiencing lower levels of toxicity. 

“A smoker who drops from 20 cigarettes per day down to 15 may not see meaningful declines in carcinogen exposure.  However, if that same smoker cuts back to three cigarettes per day with the help of vaping or a nicotine-replacement therapy, significant changes in toxin exposure will be clearly evident," Conley further stated.


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