Fears that “vaping” is a gateway to tobacco smoking are unfounded, shows a comprehensive review of available evidence on the harms and benefits of electronic or e-cigarettes and vapour devices, released today by University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research of BC (CARBC) in a report called “Clearing the Air.”
Researchers surveyed the rapidly increasing academic literature on e-cigarettes and found evidence that vaping is replacing—rather than encouraging—the smoking of tobacco cigarettes among young people. The CARBC researchers identified 1,622 articles on the topic, of which 170 were relevant to their review. Evidence shows that tobacco use by youth has been declining while use of vapour devices has been increasing.
“Fears of a gateway effect are unjustified and overblown,” says principal investigator Marjorie MacDonald. “From a public health perspective, it’s positive to see youth moving towards a less harmful substitute to tobacco smoking.”
Among their other observations, CARBC researchers found strong evidence that the vapour from e-cigarettes is less toxic than tobacco cigarette smoke. Vapour devices do not release tar, and vapour emissions contain only eighteen of the 79 toxins found in cigarette smoke, including considerably lower levels of certain cancer causing agents and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Almost all substances tested were substantially lower, or not detected, in vapour devices compared to cigarettes.
In addition, vapour from electronic devices is airborne for less than 30 seconds compared to 18 to 20 minutes for tobacco smoke, substantially reducing the time of second-hand exposure.
Researchers caution, however, that some vapour devices may contain potentially concerning levels of metals and particulate matter, noting that there has been insufficient research regarding some significant carcinogens that may still be present.
Finally, they found encouraging evidence that vapour devices could be at least as effective as other nicotine replacements as aids to help tobacco smokers quit.
“The public has been misled about the risks of e-cigarettes,” concludes Tim Stockwell, CARBC director and co-principal investigator. “Many people think they are as dangerous as smoking tobacco but the evidence shows this is completely false.”