Switch From Smoking to Vaping Could Save Millions

Frederick Owens
October 5, 2017

If all but five percent of American smokers switched to e-cigarettes, 6.6 million premature deaths would be avoided, according to a new study. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco kills more than half its consumers, or seven million people a year, worldwide, including about one million persons exposed to passive smoking.

Even a worst-case scenario involving e-cigarettes would still save lives, the researchers said. As of 2016, he has published more than 40 studies and articles in worldwide peer-reviewed scientific journals about smoking, tobacco harm reduction and e-cigarettes.

In the optimistic model, researchers used data from current e-cigarette use patterns and published evaluations for potential harm reduction - that is, the ability of e-cigarettes to help smokers quit.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, researchers attempted to demonstrate the potential health impact of replacing all or nearly all combustible cigarette use with e-cigarettes over a period of ten years.

"An e-cigarette strategy really could help us move towards the goal that we all have, to reduce cigarette use", Levy said.

In that optimistic model, the researchers found that 6.6 million premature deaths could be avoided in the USA, according to the study, which was published yesterday (Oct. 2) in the journal Tobacco Control.

Writing in an editorial that was published alongside the new study, Marita Hefler, a public health researcher at Menzies School of Health Research in Australia, said that "the health gains modelled [in the new study] show that even in a pessimistic scenario", rapidly phasing out regular cigarettes could result in significant public health gains. Gum and patches also aren't as pleasurable as using an e-cigarette, and that enjoyment might make it more hard for someone to wean themselves off e-cigarettes.

In the "pessimistic scenario", with smoking rates and interventions continuing as they are, there would be 1.6 million fewer deaths and 20.8 million fewer life years lost.

In short, the jury is still out on what exactly the health effects of e-cigarettes will be.

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Starting next month, major US cigarette companies will publish a series of statements about the health risks of smoking.

For example, a September study in the Journal of the American Heart Association linked the nicotine in e-cigarettes to adrenaline level spikes that could increase the risk of heart attack.

As tobacco control experts move into what they've dubbed "endgame", or eliminating tobacco consumption entirely, the focus still remains on stubbing traditional cigarette smoking above all else.

However, the vapor-emitting, battery-powered devices remain unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"The best studies to date indicate that the most popular forms of e-cigarettes have a small fraction of the cancer-causing and other toxic chemicals that are ingested with cigarettes", said Levy.

People would quit e-cigarettes at about the same rate they quit tobacco.

This is not to say that there are no risks associated with e-cigarettes.

As far as smoking is concerned, e-cigarettes may simply represent the lesser of two evils.

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