E-Cigarettes’ Risks And Benefits: Highlights From The Report To The F.D.A.
- Apr 24, 2018 -

Vaping may be safer than smoking cigarettes, but a national panel of experts stopped short of saying that e-cigarettes were entirely safe. CreditNam Y. Huh/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a report on Tuesday assessing studies about the health effects of e-cigarettes. The panel of experts conducted a comprehensive review of research in the field, categorizing evidence on various issues as conclusive, substantial, limited or nonexistent. Below are some of their conclusions.

Nicotine and addiction

There is substantial evidence that e-cigarette use can be addictive. Exposure to nicotine varies a lot, depending on the device and the e-liquid it uses, as well as the individual vaper’s practices. But, the report said, there is also substantial evidence that nicotine intake from e-cigarettes, used by experienced adults, can be comparable to that of conventional cigarettes.

Moderate evidence: The risk and severity of dependence on e-cigarettes is lower than for conventional cigarettes.

Toxic substances

Traditional cigarettes pose serious risks to human health, much of it from toxic tobacco smoke. There is conclusive evidence that most e-cigarette products contain and emit numerous potentially toxic substances, and that they increase airborne particulate matter and nicotine indoors. But despite that, the evidence suggests that e-cigarette aerosol contains fewer toxic substances and lower levels of them than smoke from conventional cigarettes.

Conclusive evidence: E-cigarette use increases airborne concentrations of particulate matter and nicotine in indoor environments.

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Substantial evidence: Except for nicotine, exposure to potentially toxic substances from e-cigarettes is most often significantly lower than from conventional cigarettes.

Limited evidence: The number of metals in e-cigarette vapor could be greater than the number of metals found in traditional cigarettes, except for cadmium, which is markedly lower in e-cigarettes.

Human health effects

The committee reviewed evidence on the effects of e-cigarettes in several areas, among them cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory illness, and oral diseases. Although research is scant, the report did present more than two dozen findings about the effects of e-cigarettes on health.

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Heart rates increase from inhaling nicotine in e-cigarettes, as does blood pressure. But the committee said there was insufficient evidence associated with long-term changes in heart rate, blood pressure or heart function.

There is little evidence, if any, at this point, about whether e-cigarettes ultimately would cause cancer or respiratory diseases in humans.

The committee found conclusive evidence that drinking or injecting e-liquids can be fatal, that exposure to the skin or eyes can cause seizures and other serious problems, and that e-cigarette devices can explode and cause burns and other injuries.

Harm reduction

There is conclusive evidence that completely substituting e-cigarettes for conventional cigarettes reduces users’ exposure to many chemicals and carcinogens that are in conventional cigarettes.

Substantial evidence: E-cigarette use increases risk of ever using traditional tobacco products among youths and young adults.

Moderate evidence: E-cigarettes with nicotine are more effective than e-cigarettes without nicotine for smoking cessation.

Limited evidence: E-cigarettes may be effective aids to help quit smoking.