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E-cigarettes less toxic to users than cigarettes, study says

A lot of important questions surround the safety and health effects of e-cigarettes, a relatively new techno...

Posted: Dec 14, 2018 3:34 PM
Updated: Dec 14, 2018 3:34 PM

A lot of important questions surround the safety and health effects of e-cigarettes, a relatively new technology, but a new study says e-cigarettes are less toxic than traditional ones.

Although the long-term health effects aren't known, there are ways to estimate them, said Maciej Goniewicz, one of the authors of the study, published Friday in the journal JAMA Network Open. "One of the ways to do that is to measure chemicals in our body that can indicate exposure to toxicants, so some biomarkers, and that is what we did in the study," said Goniewicz, a pharmacologist and toxicologist at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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Unsurprisingly, those who did not use either e-cigarettes or combustible cigarettes had significantly lower concentrations of exposure to most of the biomarkers. But those who used only e-cigarettes had lower levels of exposure than people who smoked traditional cigarettes or who smoked traditional cigarettes and vaped.

Researchers looked at 5,105 US adults who each fell into one of four groups: cigarette-only smokers, e-cigarette-only users, those who used both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes (called dual users) and those who used neither. The data used was collected from 2013 to 2014 and came from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health study.

Goniewicz and his fellow authors looked at the concentrations of 50 biomarkers that showed exposure to tobacco-related toxicants.

"The users of [e-cigarettes] are exposed to several toxicants," Goniewicz said. "On the other hand, when we compared with the tobacco smokers, then we found that the levels of the toxicant in the e-cigarette users are significantly lower."

The mean concentration of total nicotine equivalents was 93% lower in e-cigarette-only users than in traditional cigarette smokers.

Dual users had the highest levels of exposure.

"In that group, we did not observe any reduction in the toxicant exposure," Goniewicz said. "They have the same levels or even, for certain chemicals, higher than smokers."

Cigarette smokers had biomarker concentrations that were 36% lower for total nicotine equivalents and NNAL, a tobacco-specific nitrosamine, levels that were 23% lower than those of dual users. These nitrosamines are chemicals present in tobacco products that have been shown to cause lung cancer, Goniewicz said.

For those who are trying to either quit or reduce the harm from smoking, Goniewicz believes that e-cigarettes could be beneficial -- but only when used the right way.

"The only way for smokers to reduce exposure to toxicants is to completely switch to electronic cigarettes. So, no smoking but e-cigarette use," he said.

Theodore Wagener, director of tobacco regulatory science research at the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center and an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, wrote an editorial published alongside the study. "Dual users evidenced the highest levels of tobacco toxicant exposure, even more than exclusive smokers. While likely influenced by smoking frequency, this finding has also been consistent in the literature and is cause for concern as most e-cigarette users are dual users," he wrote.

Although he points out that some dual users might be in the process of switching completely, there is also a possibility that they are long-term dual users or have failed at switching methods.

Because of this, "clear health messages must be delivered to smokers that completely switching from smoking to e-cigarette use is necessary to confer a significant reduction," he said.

The new study is "very important," said Richard Miech, principal investigator at Monitoring the Future at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. "To my knowledge, this is one of the first toxicological studies based on population data and therefore one of the first that can be directly generalized to the US population.

"I think a lot of people think that vaping nicotine is pretty much harmless and that there are no health consequences, and this is one of the first studies I know of to show that it looks like there are some toxicants that vapers are exposing themselves to," said Miech, who was not involved in the research.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 309223

Reported Deaths: 7153
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21005250
Hinds19989411
Harrison17590303
Rankin13388277
Jackson13169243
Madison9965212
Lee9900170
Jones8319161
Forrest7554149
Lauderdale7232237
Lowndes6306144
Lamar614685
Lafayette6081118
Washington5296133
Bolivar4778130
Oktibbeha458097
Panola4461103
Pearl River4447142
Warren4310119
Marshall4302103
Pontotoc417672
Monroe4063132
Union405175
Neshoba4009176
Lincoln3892109
Hancock373785
Leflore3471124
Sunflower332090
Tate325984
Pike3226105
Scott311973
Yazoo305369
Alcorn301566
Itawamba297977
Copiah294365
Coahoma290779
Simpson290486
Tippah285368
Prentiss276659
Marion266479
Leake262473
Wayne261541
Grenada257385
Covington255380
Adams247082
Newton246161
George238947
Winston226181
Tishomingo222867
Jasper220248
Attala213673
Chickasaw205857
Holmes187272
Clay183354
Stone179733
Clarke178177
Tallahatchie176240
Calhoun165632
Yalobusha160236
Smith159734
Walthall131143
Greene129633
Lawrence126823
Noxubee126634
Montgomery125842
Perry125238
Amite121041
Carroll121026
Webster113932
Jefferson Davis105932
Tunica103425
Claiborne101430
Benton97525
Kemper95728
Humphreys94732
Franklin83123
Quitman78916
Choctaw74417
Wilkinson65329
Jefferson64928
Sharkey49817
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 522512

Reported Deaths: 10790
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson755371494
Mobile39129799
Madison34124500
Tuscaloosa25408444
Montgomery24059573
Shelby23225242
Baldwin20730302
Lee15638166
Calhoun14358311
Morgan14171273
Etowah13705348
Marshall12012220
Houston10416279
Elmore10024203
Limestone9862148
Cullman9509191
St. Clair9486236
Lauderdale9280233
DeKalb8762183
Talladega8127173
Walker7151276
Autauga6763106
Jackson6762110
Blount6532133
Colbert6236132
Coffee5436113
Dale4781111
Russell431239
Franklin421382
Chilton4130110
Covington4069115
Tallapoosa3922148
Escambia390374
Dallas3528150
Chambers3519122
Clarke347360
Marion3076100
Pike306676
Lawrence296395
Winston273272
Bibb256761
Marengo248561
Geneva246475
Pickens233259
Barbour227155
Hale218675
Butler213268
Fayette209660
Henry188444
Cherokee182744
Randolph177841
Monroe173140
Washington165538
Macon156548
Clay150255
Crenshaw149557
Cleburne147041
Lamar140034
Lowndes137353
Wilcox124727
Bullock122040
Conecuh109728
Perry107726
Sumter103332
Coosa99428
Greene91434
Choctaw58824
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