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December 5, 2017

In a first-of-its-kind analysis, researchers found “no detectable changes in lung health in never smokers who have been regularly vaping for at least four years,” according to a November study published in Scientific Reports. To date, this is the first long-term study analyzing electronic cigarette users.


In the observational study, researchers compared nine daily e-cigarette users that had never smoked tobacco to a “reference group of twelve never smokers.” Researchers compared health outcomes of the two groups, including “blood pressure, heart rate, body weight, lung function, respiratory symptoms, exhaled nitric oxide, exhaled carbon monoxide, and a high-resolution computed tomography of the lungs.” The researchers say their findings show “no significant changes in any of the health outcomes investigated, including measures of lung function and lung inflammation.”


The authors also observed the potential effects of nicotine and diacetyl and determined they had created no long-term negative effects.


There has been a growing concern of the “adverse cardiovascular effects” of nicotine and the use of vapor products. Some researchers have been particularly concerned about their potential effect on blood pressure and heart rate. The Scientific Report study found no significant changes in blood pressure or heart rate among e-cigarette users. Researchers also found higher concentrations of diacetyl did not lead to the development of “bronchiolitis obliterans,” commonly called “popcorn lung.”


This is the latest, but not only, study showing evidence e-cigarettes can be used effectively and safely as a tobacco harm reduction tool. In 2015, Public Health England found e-cigarettes to be “around 95% safer than smoking.” The Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians concluded in 2016 e-cigarette use is “unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco.” Similarly, NHS Health Scotland issued a joint statement in September 2017 in which the agency said “vaping e-cigarettes is less harmful than smoking tobacco.”


An estimated 480,000 Americans die each year due to smoking cigarettes regularly. Related health care costs are estimated to be as high as $170 billion per year. Further, more than 60 percent of those costs are “paid by public programs, including Medicare, other federally sponsored programs, or Medicaid.”


E-cigarettes and vaping devices have “proven effective at helping smokers reduce their cigarette use or quit altogether”  and could help states’ budgets, according to J. Scott Moody, chief executive officer and chief economist at State Budget Solutions. Moody found in 2012 Medicaid savings could have amounted to $49 billion if e-cigarettes had been adopted and used in place of tobacco cigarettes.


Policymakers should carefully consider the growing body of evidence showing e-cigarettes and vaping devices to be safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes. Rather than enacting burdensome taxes and regulations that are similar to those imposed on tobacco products, lawmakers should enact policies that promote tobacco harm reduction tools, including electronic cigarettes and vaping devices.

Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Link Majority of Vaping-Related Hospitalizations to THC: Welcome
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