Clearing the air around e-cigarettes
Researchers surveyed the rapidly increasing academic literature on e-cigarettes and found evidence that vaping is replacing‚ÄĒrather than encouraging‚ÄĒthe smoking of tobacco cigarettes among young people. The CARBC researchers identified 1,622 articles on the topic, of which 170 were relevant to their review. Evidence shows that tobacco use by youth has been declining while use of vapour devices has been increasing.
‚ÄúFears of a gateway effect are unjustified and overblown,‚ÄĚ says principal investigator Marjorie MacDonald. ‚ÄúFrom a public health perspective, it‚Äôs positive to see youth moving towards a less harmful substitute to tobacco smoking.‚ÄĚ
Among their other observations, CARBC researchers found strong evidence that the vapour from e-cigarettes is less toxic than tobacco cigarette smoke. Vapour devices do not release tar, and vapour emissions contain only eighteen of the 79 toxins found in cigarette smoke, including considerably lower levels of certain cancer causing agents and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Almost all substances tested were substantially lower, or not detected, in vapour devices compared to cigarettes.
In addition, vapour from electronic devices is airborne for less than 30 seconds compared to 18 to 20 minutes for tobacco smoke, substantially reducing the time of second-hand exposure.
Researchers caution, however, that some vapour devices may contain potentially concerning levels of metals and particulate matter, noting that there has been insufficient research regarding some significant carcinogens that may still be present.
Finally, they found encouraging evidence that vapour devices could be at least as effective as other nicotine replacements as aids to help tobacco smokers quit.
‚ÄúThe public has been misled about the risks of e-cigarettes,‚ÄĚ concludes Tim Stockwell, CARBC director and co-principal investigator. ‚ÄúMany people think they are as dangerous as smoking tobacco but the evidence shows this is completely false.‚ÄĚ
The team recommends that Canadian regulations of vapour devices be informed by the best available evidence and with a view to improving public health; that more accurate information about their risks in comparison with tobacco use is provided to the public; and that strategies are developed to help people who wish to quit smoking have affordable access to the safest forms of vapour devices.
This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. UVic PhD candidate Ren√©e O‚ÄôLeary was the project coordinator and lead author on the report. Dan Reist, CARBC assistant director, is a co-author.
Jan. 15 to 21 is National Non-Smoking Week in Canada.
A media kit containing author photos, full report (for media only, not for publication), and an infographic is available on Dropbox. An executive summary is available here.
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Tim Stockwell (Director, UVic‚Äôs Centre for Addictions Research) at 250-472-5445 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Marjorie MacDonald (Scientist, UVic‚Äôs Centre for Addictions Research/Nursing) at 250-472-4399 or email@example.com
Suzanne Ahearne (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-6139 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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