E-cigarettes safer than smoking says long-term study

February 06, 2017

E-cigarettes are less toxic and safer to use compared to conventional cigarettes, according to research* published in Annals of Internal Medicine today (Monday).

Cancer Research UK-funded scientists found that people who swapped smoking regular cigarettes for e-cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) 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.

For the first time, researchers analysed the saliva and urine of long-term e-cigarette and NRT users, as well as smokers, and compared body-level exposure to key chemicals.**

Ex-smokers who switched to e-cigarettes or NRT had significantly lower levels of toxic chemicals and carcinogens*** in their body compared to people who continued to smoke tobacco cigarettes. But, those who used e-cigarettes or NRT while continuing to smoke, did not show the same marked differences, highlighting that a complete switch is needed to reduce exposure to toxins.

Dr Lion Shahab, senior lecturer in the department of epidemiology and public health at UCL, and lead author of the publication, 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."

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK's director of cancer prevention, said: "Around a third of tobacco-caused deaths are due to cancer, so we want to see many more of the UK's 10 million smokers break their addiction.

"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."
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For media enquiries contact Kathryn Ingham in the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 5475 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.

Notes to editor:

*Lion Shahab, L., Goniewicz, M, L., PhD; Blount, B, C., Brown, J., McNeill, A., Alwis, K, U., Feng, J., Wang, L., & West, R. Nicotine, carcinogen, and toxin exposure in long-term e-cigarette and nicotine replacement therapy users: a cross-sectional study. Annals of Internal Medicine. doi:10.7326/M16-1107

Post-embargo link: http://annals.org/aim/article/doi/10.7326/M16-1107

**Previous research into the toxicity of e-cigarettes has focused on assessing concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals within the products themselves, or the vapor they produce.

***Levels of TSNAs (tobacco-specific nitrosamines) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) metabolites were examined - these compounds have well-established smoking-related toxicological and carcinogenic risks.

About Cancer Research UK

* Cancer Research UK is the world's leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.

* Cancer Research UK's pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.

* Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.

* Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last forty years.

* Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK's ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.

* Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.

* Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit http://www.cancerresearchuk.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Cancer Research UK

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