Researchers say that the tobacco control community needs to be coordinated in its efforts, and not let the tobacco industry divide its attitudes toward e-cigs.
The researchers said in a study published Monday in the journal Tobacco Control that 6.6 million lives is on the best-case side of the switching scenario, while 1.6 million lives is on the worst-case side.
Hypothesising that an e-cigarette carries only five percent of the health risk of the real McCoy, and that only a handful of people will still smoke tobacco by 2026, the researchers said 6.6 million premature deaths could be prevented by 2100. This represented a 25% drop from the 26.1 million premature deaths projected under the status quo, with 19.3% of American men and 14.1% of women smoking in 2016, the study showed.
Our projections show that a strategy of replacing cigarette smoking with vaping would yield substantial life year gains, even under pessimistic assumptions regarding cessation, initiation and relative harm – the researchers said in their report.
An endgame scenario for cigarettes might well be within reach if new technologies for delivering nicotine with substantially less harm, but sufficient satisfaction, are harnessed with sufficient passion and political will.
This Washington, DC study comes amid declining cigarette sales, and three years after the US Surgeon General’s recommendation that the US follow the examples of Finland, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Ireland and come up with an ‘endgame’ for cigarette smoking. As has been the case in most studies reviewing a potential reduced-risk for e-cigs, what these results signify depend on where individuals fall on the anti-tobacco, anti-smoking spectrum.
Dr Hefler, who was a researcher in the study, however, said combustible tobacco was by far the most harmful end of the nicotine product spectrum.
“E-cigarettes, and more recently heat-not-burn tobacco products, most closely mimic, and therefore have the greatest potential to displace combustible tobacco. While they are not harmless they are almost certainly lower risk than cigarettes for current smokers,” she said.
David Levy, a lead researcher and professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, said that “old policies need to be supplemented with policies that encourage substituting e-cigarettes for the far more deadly cigarettes.”
From late 2018 to as far out as August 2022 this included easing some regulations for product innovations, and extending the application deadline for FDA regulatory review for new products, such as e-cigs and vaporizers.
“This study could represent a seismic shift in the way the FDA and public health groups look at vaping,” said Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association. For years, harm-reduction advocates have relied on quality research from independent European researchers and non-government organizations, only to be told that such research was somehow not trustworthy because the authors were not American. Now, we have some of the most respected American researchers in the field of tobacco control explaining in detail how vaping can and will save lives,” Conley said.
Ongoing independent research is also needed into the long term effects of using e-cigarettes, as knowledge is still evolving, Dr Hefler said. Substituting some cigarettes with e-cigs (35.3%) was used by a greater percentage of smokers than the nicotine patch or gum (25.4%) or other cessation aids approved by the FDA, the CDC said.