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Vaping Vs Smoking - The Evidence Is In

Posted on July 20 2015

Every discussion of vaping should include a comparison with smoking. That’s because most vapers were smokers, and if not for vaping, most vapers would still be smokers. On top of that, if vaping survives the huge challenges to its very existence, millions of would-be smokers will be diverted from cigarette addiction by low-risk nicotine alternatives like e-cigarettes.

But when it comes to actual science, far too few studies employ a direct comparison between vaping and smoking. That’s probably because studies are done largely by people in the tobacco control field, and most of them want to see total elimination of all nicotine use.

So if a paper compares, say, carcinogenic compounds in smoke and vapor, the results will show that smoke contains vastly larger quantities of the things that cause cancer. And pointing that out doesn’t serve the cause of abstinence very well. However, comparing vapor to clean air makes vapor look bad.

Vaping vs smoking: health effects

More than sixty years of science has proven that smoking is a very risky activity. Around half of all long-term smokers will die prematurely from its effects. The science on vaping is much newer, but what we do know is that no serious or widespread harms have been proven.

According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s report on smoking, about 16 million Americans suffer from some smoking-related disease, with 480,000 of them dying each year. Let’s look at the major categories of health problems caused by smoking and see if vaping poses risks in the same areas.

Cancer

Cancer

Cancers form when toxins damage or mutate a cell’s DNA and cause it to grow out of control. A tumor can remain local, or the cancer can spread, and even move from one organ to another.

Most people are familiar with cigarette smoking as a cause of lung cancer. Lung cancer kills more Americans than any kind of cancer, and most (but not all) lung cancer victims are smokers. It is a particularly brutal form of cancer.

However, smoking can cause many other kinds of cancer too, because cancers can form not just in areas that have contact with the smoke, but also from smoke byproducts in the bloodstream and organs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body.

Some of the cancers that can be caused by smoking are:

  • Blood (leukemia)
  • Bladder
  • Cervix
  • Colon and rectum
  • Esophagus and trachea
  • Kidney and renal pelvis
  • Larynx
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Mouth and throat
  • Pancreas
  • Stomach

Nicotine itself — either in cigarettes or e-cigs, or other nicotine products — has not been shown to cause cancer. Long-term studies of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and Swedish snus users show no provable link between nicotine and cancer.

The 2016 Royal College of Physicians (RCP) report “Nicotine Without Smoke” says that “robust evidence on the safety of long-term nicotine use in humans from the 5-year Lung Health Study, in which participants were actively encouraged to use NRT for several months and many continued to consume NRT for a much longer period, demonstrates no association between sustained NRT use and the occurrence of cancer (lung, gastrointestinal or any cancer) or cardiovascular disease.”

Cancers from smoking are caused by the combustion of tobacco. The smoke forms a sticky chemical slurry called tar, and the tar coats delicate parts of the lungs. Over the course of years, the damage created by tar in the lungs can lead to tumor growth. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), most of the cancer-causing substances in cigarette smoke is in the tar. Tar also causes damage that can lead to lung diseases like emphysema and bronchitis.

“This study should put to rest any doubt within the tobacco control movement about whether vaping greatly reduces health risk compared to smoking.”

E-cigarettes don’t produce tar, because they don’t burn (or even contain) tobacco or other plant material. There are known carcinogens in vapor, but they’re in tiny concentrations that are unlikely to pose any risk to vapers. Most studies that have raised alarms about cancer risk from vaping have used poor methods, including using smoking machines to take too-frequent or too-long drags, or vaping at unrealistic high temperatures on dry wicks. Those things wouldn’t happen to actual vapers, because the result — known as dry hits or dry puffs — is unbearable to breathe.

“In normal conditions of use, toxin levels in inhaled e-cigarette vapour are probably well below prescribed threshold limit values for occupational exposure, in which case significant long-term harm is unlikely,” says the RCP report. “Some harm from sustained exposure to low levels of toxins over many years may yet emerge, but the magnitude of these risks relative to those of sustained tobacco smoking is likely to be small.”

A recent study at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland found that the cancer danger of vaping is almost as low as for nicotine replacement therapies like patches and gum — less than one percent. “This study should put to rest any doubt within the tobacco control movement about whether vaping greatly reduces health risk compared to smoking,” wrote Boston University’s Dr. Michael Siegel.

As the evidence continues to mount, it becomes clearer and clearer that vaping is a much safer and more viable alternative to smoking.

Originally posted by Vaping 360

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