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October 12, 2017

A new study published in the October 2017 issue of Tobacco Control, a BMJ peer-reviewed journal, concludes the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices would help avert deaths, if used to replace cigarettes. The study analyzed health outcomes using “a strategy of switching cigarette smokers to e-cigarette use (‘vaping’) in the USA to accelerate tobacco control progress.”


The authors used data from the 1965–2012 National Health Survey to identify the “number of smoking-attributable deaths for current smokers [as] calculated by age, sex and year.” To distinguish the expected risk of e-cigarette use, the authors posit “the risk to former smokers from using e-cigarettes is proportional to the difference in risk between current and former smokers.”


The authors determined the replacement of e-cigarettes for tobacco cigarettes would result in an estimated 6.6 million fewer deaths and more than 86 million fewer life-years-lost.

The study furthers the validity of other studies that also found vaping is less harmful than combustible cigarettes. In 2015, Public Health England declared e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, noting its research found “the current best estimate [shows] using [ENDS] is around 95% safer than smoking.”


A 2016 report by the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians found health hazards from electronic cigarettes were “unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco,” and these products have created “a massive opportunity for a consumer – as well as healthcare – led revolution in the way nicotine is used in society.”


In September 2017, NHS Health Scotland issued a joint statement with other health agencies declaring “vaping e-cigarettes is less harmful than smoking tobacco.”  


In addition to e-cigarettes providing important health benefits, research shows they could also save taxpayers billions of dollars. J. Scott Moody, chief executive officer and chief economist at State Budget Solutions, estimated savings to Medicaid could have amounted to $48 billion in 2012 if ENDS had been adopted in place of tobacco cigarettes.

It is important for policymakers to acknowledge that e-cigarettes are and could continue to be an important tobacco-harm reduction tool, and they should embrace, not diminish, their usefulness by repealing or avoiding burdensome taxes and regulations that mimic those applied to tobacco products.

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.

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