Vaping devotees, you have been vindicated: In the first long-term study comparing e-cigarettes with regular old cigarettes, researchers found that e-cigs aren’t quite as bad for you as the tobacco they replace. In fact, transitioning to vaping may end up being a good way to help people quit smoking altogether.
The study, funded by Cancer Research U.K., found that people who switched from tobacco to e-cigarettes for at least six months “had much lower levels of toxic and cancer-causing substances in their body than people who continued to use conventional cigarettes.” The conclusion: e-cigarettes are less toxic than tobacco.
The study followed 181 participants over a six-month period. The participants were split into five groups: “combustible” cigarettes users, e-cigarette users, users of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) like patches or gum, and people who smoke combustible cigarettes while also using either e-cigarettes or other NRT products.
Most studies up until now, as noted in the report, have examined the toxins in the actual vapor of the e-cigarette and compared that to the toxins in tobacco. But because the actual absorption levels of substances from e-cigarettes are not known, this may not be an accurate way to determine actual toxicity. Also, different vaping devices may deliver differing amounts of chemicals to the body.
This study instead examined the levels of toxins and carcinogens in the body over time, and found that they are lower in users of e-cigs than in regular smokers, and comparable to those found in people using other NRTs.
This is a big deal. While taking up vaping from scratch is still a bad idea, regular smokers who switch to e-cigarettes could do themselves considerably less harm than if they keep smoking tobacco. Ideally, e-cigarettes would be, like nicotine patches, used as an aid to eventually wean yourself off nicotine altogether, but even if you switch permanently to vaping, you’ll be healthier.
Vaping is still a young phenomenon–e-cigarettes were only patented in 2003–and the research is still scant. Even this study only looks at 181 individuals, and is funded by an organization that has a vested interest in reducing cancer. But really, it seems that pretty much anything is better for you than smoking. Apart from sitting down, that is.