Cancer Research UK: Vaping a safe, low risk alternative to smoking

Leading public health organisation Cancer Research UK released a statement today confirming that e-cigarettes not only provide a safe, low-risk alternative to smoking but also offer an effective means of enabling tobacco smokers to kick the habit for good. 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."


Cox refers to a newly published study in the leading medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine which found that a complete switch from smoking to e-cigarettes virtually eliminated the smoker’s exposure to carcinogenic chemicals. The long-term study conducted over 6 months is the first of its kind and noted that participants who made the switch to vaping had significantly lower levels of TSNAs (tobacco-specific nitrosamines) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) metabolites – key toxic, cancer-causing chemicals associated with smoking – built up in their saliva and urine than those who continued to smoke regular cigarettes.


Dr Lion Shahab, senior lecturer in the department of epidemiology and public health at UCL, and lead author of the publication noted that the study adds to existing evidence that e-cigarettes 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.” 


Unlike cigarettes, e-cigarettes or vapes work by generating vapours from nicotine-loaded e-liquids rather than cancer-causing tobacco, providing a dosage of nicotine which satiates smoker cravings without the carcinogens associated with tobacco combustion. Nicotine does not cause cancer and there is no evidence that second-hand nicotine vapours can harm bystanders.


Cancer Research UK believes that understanding and communicating the benefits of nicotine replacements, such as e-cigarettes, is an important step towards reducing the number of tobacco-related deaths. We’re inclined to agree.


Satyajeet Mara is the Executive Director of MyChoice Australia

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