VCU study finds e-cigs may reduce exposure to tobacco-related carcinogen

Experts think last year’s outbreak of vaping related illnesses and deaths may have scared off...
Experts think last year’s outbreak of vaping related illnesses and deaths may have scared off some kids, but they believe other factors contributed to the drop, including higher age limits and flavor bans.(Source: CNN)
Updated: Apr. 17, 2021 at 2:24 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - E-cigarettes with similar nicotine levels to cigarettes may reduce smoking and lessen exposure to pulmonary carcinogen NNAL, according to a study led by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and Penn State College of Medicine.

Over a 24 week trial, more than 500 participants used an e-cigarette device with either no nicotine, a low nicotine level at 8 mg/ml, or a cigarette-like level at 36 mg/ml. They were also told to reduce smoking.

At weeks 0, 4, 12 and 24, the researchers sampled the participants’ urine for a tobacco-related carcinogen, 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanol, also known as NNAL.

Even at the higher, cigarette-like nicotine level, participants had significantly lower levels of NNAL.

“[We found] e-cigarettes with nicotine delivery like a combustible cigarette were effective in helping reduce smoking and exposure to a tobacco-related carcinogen,” said author Caroline Cobb, an associate professor in the VCU Department of Psychology. “But it doesn’t just happen by accident. It requires the smoker to be actively trying to reduce their smoking by replacing it with e-cigarette use.”

Cobb emphasized the importance of varying nicotine levels in the trial. Previous studies only examined smoking behavior and toxicant exposure with low or unknown nicotine levels.

“This study shows that when smokers interested in reduction are provided with an e-cigarette with cigarette-like nicotine delivery, they are more likely to achieve significant decreases in tobacco-related toxicants, such as lower exhaled carbon monoxide levels,” said Jonathan Foulds, professor of public health sciences at Penn State.

The study, which contributes to the ongoing question of what role e-cigarettes can play in smoking behavior, will be published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal.

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