Scientists have concluded that the effects of vaping are far less harmful than regular cigarettes after the first long-term study looking at the effects of smoking e-cigarettes.
Research conducted using ex-smokers who had switched to e-cigarettes found that those who made the change had far fewer toxins and cancer-causing substances in their bodies than continual smokers.
Experts hope that the findings will reassure would-be quitters who have been confused by mixed messages about the safety of e-cigarettes.
Some previous studies suggesting that vaping is as harmful as smoking have little in common with real-world experience, experts claim.
The new findings also show that to be safe it is necessary for smokers to switch over completely to e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) like patches.
Study participants who failed to make a clean break still had significant amounts of tobacco-related toxins in their saliva and urine.
Lead author Dr Lion Shahab, from University College London, said: “Our study adds to existing evidence showing that e-cigarettes and NRT are far safer than smoking, and suggests that there is a very low risk associated with their long-term use.
“We’ve shown that the levels of toxic chemicals in the body from e-cigarettes are considerably lower than suggested in previous studies using simulated experiments. This means some doubts about the safety of e-cigarettes may be wrong.
“Our results also suggest that while e-cigarettes are not only safer, the amount of nicotine they provide is not noticeably different to conventional cigarettes.
“This can help people to stop smoking altogether by dealing with their cravings in a safer way.”
The Cancer Research UK-funded scientists studied a total of 181 individuals including smokers and ex-smokers who had used e-cigarettes or NRT products such as patches and nasal sprays for at least six months.
Alison Cox, director of cancer prevention at Cancer Research UK, said: “This study adds to growing evidence that e-cigarettes are a much safer alternative to tobacco, and suggests the long term effects of these products will be minimal.
“Understanding and communicating the benefits of nicotine replacements, such as e-cigarettes, is an important step towards reducing the number of tobacco-related deaths here in the UK.”
Professor Kevin Fenton, national director of health and well-being at Public Health England, said the findings provided further evidence that switching to e-cigarettes can “significantly reduce harm” to smokers.
He added: “The best thing a smoker can do, for themselves and those around them, is to quit now, completely and forever.
“E-cigarettes are the most popular quitting method in England and local stop smoking services are the most effective way to give up, with those who combine the two having some of the highest success rates.”
A spokesman for the UK Vaping Industry Association, welcomed the study, saying: “Vaping has significantly grown in popularity in the UK in the past few years. There are now nearly three million vapers.
“We urge the Government to recognise that this represents a huge public health opportunity, and work with the vaping industry to encourage more smokers to switch from tobacco to vaping.”
Top pic: PA