Two new studies should reassure those who are trying to quit smoking by using e-cigarettes, though they offer some caution for vapers who have never smoked. The first study confirmed that smoking e-cigarettes is far less harmful than smoking regular cigarettes, while the second found that smoking e-cigarettes can be a gateway to smoking actual cigarettes in teenagers.
The first study, conducted in the U.K. with findings published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, examined several large groups of people using saliva and urine samples: those who smoke regular tobacco cigarettes, those who are former smokers of regular cigarettes but had smoked only e-cigarettes for a long period (more than two years) of time, and those who smoked both tobacco and e-cigarettes. What the researchers found is not that surprising, if you know anything about how cigarettes harm you: Though both regular and e-cigarettes contain high levels of nicotine — which is what makes them addictive — e-cigarettes, which never combust, are not found to be carcinogenic and have many, many fewer harmful chemicals in them. The study found that switching from combustible to e-cigarettes will “substantially reduce” one’s exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. Good to know for those trying to quit!
But, for young people, who sometimes take up vaping even though they’re not actually smokers, a separate study done at the University of Michigan has less encouraging results. It finds that, for high schoolers, smoking e-cigarettes makes them twice as likely to smoke a real cigarette within the next year. Part of the reason for this, the researchers believe, is that vaping may lead teens to change the way they think about the risks of smoking generally. “These findings contribute to a growing body of evidence showing that teens who vape are more likely to start smoking than their peers who don’t vape,” said lead author of the study Richard Miech. “At the very least, teens who vape should be considered at high risk for future smoking, even if they believe they are vaping only flavoring.”