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Study shows e-cig vapor is 99% less carcinogenic than second-hand smoke

New research indicating that e-cig vapor is 99 percent less carcinogenic that the second-hand smoke of tobacco cigarettes should be making international headlines.  However, the report seems to be largely unnoticed by mainstream media as anti-tobacco lobbyists continue to insist that further evidence is needed before they can endorse vaping as an effective tobacco harm reduction aid.

The vaping study conducted by a team of scientists from UK’s University of St. Andrews also measured the carcinogenic levels of second-hand smoke derived from the trending Heat-not-Burn (HnB) technology. While HnB scored a much lower carcinogenic percentage compared to cigarette smoke, second-hand vapor outperformed both alternatives in every way imaginable.  The research paper entitled Comparing the cancer potencies of emissions from vapourised nicotine products including e-cigarettes with those of tobacco smoke can be located on the BMJ Tobacco Control website.

Carcinogenic values of e-cigs vs. HnB vs. smoking

HnB devices like the IQOS (I Quit Ordinary Smoking) is technology that is largely manufactured and promoted by the Big Tobacco industry.  Instead of “burning” the tobacco leaves in the conventional sense, the tobacco is “heated” by a newfangled contraption that looks deceptively like an electronic cigarette.  Vaping, on the other hand, is 100 percent tobacco-free.  The e-liquids of e-cigs are comprised of only three primary ingredients, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and liquid nicotine extract.


The UK scientists began their research by evaluating the carcinogenic levels of 30 liters of related exhaust related to the three methodologies.  30 liters is the average amount of smoke produced from a 15-cigarette-per-day smoker.  And while the exposure to cancer-causing toxins will vary slightly depending on the users’ preferred brands and different smoking or vaping habits, the researchers determined that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking by as much as 99 percent.  HnB technology ranked somewhere in the middle.

“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.”

The scientists also note that another determining factor of the varying levels of toxicity might include the specific heating and vaping temperatures of the individual users.  In the past, the findings of similar studies have been called into question for failing to clarify these temperature variances.

In fact, a 2015 report published in the New England Journal of Medicine led to widespread public outcry from within the academic community for basing its findings on such poor scientific procedures.  In the 2015 study, the researchers either intentionally or accidentally turning up the heating temperatures to such unrealistically high levels that the related measurements of formaldehyde rose to astronomical levels.

The 2015 study has since been largely rebuked.  The University of St Andrews study makes clear that vaping and HnB temperatures matter, but when used properly, vaping has the carcinogenic potencies of only one-percent of cigarette smoke.


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