Health experts may have given vaping the thumbs up for ex-smokers, but they stopped short of saying e-cigarettes are safe to use, the Irish Cancer Society has warned.
The first long-term study of the effects of vaping in ex-smokers found that people who switched from real to e-cigarettes had far fewer toxins and cancer-causing substances in their bodies than regular smokers.
The researchers said the finding provided strong reassurance that vaping was safer than smoking.
The scientists, funded by Cancer Research UK, studied a total of 181 individuals, including smokers and ex-smokers who had used e-cigarettes or nicotine- replacement therapy (NRT) products, such as patches and nasal sprays, for at least six months.
Vape Business Ireland (VBI) called on the Irish Cancer Society to endorse the research that was carried out by their British counterpart.
“We hope this study will encourage the Department of Health and the Irish Cancer Society to embrace the potential vaping has as an alternative to smoking,” said VBI spokesman, Keith Flynn.
Head of services and advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, Donal Buggy, said the charity had been saying for some time that the use of e-cigarettes presented potential benefits and risks.
He said the research demonstrated the potential benefit of consuming nicotine through e-cigarettes rather than through smoking tobacco in the form of traditional cigarettes.
“This research, however, does not address the safety of not smoking in comparison to e-cigarette use. Therefore, it is not saying that e-cigarettes are safe to use,” he said.
The study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, also found that those who consume both e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes had similar toxins in their systems as those who only use tobacco cigarettes.
“Further work is required to measure the long-term health effects and social impact of e-cigarettes. The potential risks include prompting young people to become addicted to nicotine, reducing a person’s interest in quitting cigarettes and/or they may lead to long-term usage with other tobacco products. These could all represent negative public health impacts,” said Mr Buggy.
Anti-smoking lobby, Ash Ireland, said research on what was a relatively new product was welcome, especially from well-established credible bodies which did not have a vested interest.
Chairman, Dr Patrick Doorly, said the study found that e-cigarette users had 97% fewer levels of a toxic chemical strongly associated with lung cancer.
“We must not lose sight of the fact that e-cigarette users are still digesting a certain, if reduced level, of toxic chemicals, and we need longer-term research to realise the full implications of this fact.”
The study’s lead author, Dr Lion Shahab, from University College London, said their study added to evidence showing e-cigarettes and NRT are far safer than smoking, and suggested there was a low risk associated with 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,” said Dr Shahab.
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