E-cigarettes less harmful than smoking, says American Cancer Society
dult smokers who can’t quit or use approved cessation methods should be encouraged to switch to electronic cigarettes, the American Cancer Society advises.
The society’s new policy statement, adopted this month, could provide a middle ground between those who regard e-cigarettes as a dangerously attractive lure, and vaping advocates who say the practice has helped them quit the far more dangerous practice of cigarette smoking.
“Of course, these individuals should be regularly advised to completely quit using all tobacco products,” the society says in its statement. The switch from smoking to vaping needs to be complete to reduce the health risk, the society says.
The pro-vaping Consumer Choice Center said the society’s qualified endorsement was “a step in the right direction,” in a statement posted Wednesday on Twitter.
Vaping’s relative risk compared to cigarette smoking has been fiercely debated. Electronic cigarettes could serve as a gateway to smoking for nonsmoking youths, according to one study of Southern California youths published in 2016 by the University of Southern California. And a study by UC San Diego and VA scientists found that e-cigarette vapor makes the antibiotic-resistant superbug MRSA harder to kill.
Vaping supporters say the vaporized liquid doesn’t contain the known carcinogens and other toxic chemicals produced by burning tobacco, so it’s less risky. A 2016 study said that switching to vaping is reducing death rates from smoking. This was backed up by a 2017 study that found smokers who switch to vaping greatly reduce their exposure to carcinogens and other toxic inhaled substances.
Vaping may lead youths to start smoking, but vaping itself is likely to be far less hazardous than conventional cigarettes, according to a report released in January by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
To resolve this issue, the American Cancer Society recommends more research.
“The ACS encourages the FDA to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to the full extent of its authority, and to determine the absolute and relative harms of each product,” the society said in its statement.
“The FDA should assess whether e-cigarettes help to reduce tobacco-related morbidity and mortality, and the impact of marketing of e-cigarettes on consumer perceptions and behavior.”