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The Million Dollar Question: ‘Is Vaping Safe?’

No smoking electronic cigarette in the office

People simply want to know: Is vaping safe?

“Vaping” is the name given to the action of using an electronic cigarette device, just like “smoking” is related to the use of traditional tobacco cigarettes. The launch of e-cigarettes less than ten years ago was successful, in part, because it tapped into a market seeking a safer alternative to tobacco for obtaining a “nicotine-fix.”

During the early years of marketing, the claims that e-cigarettes were “safer” than tobacco went largely unchallenged. However, since the issue of “is vaping safe” was becoming increasingly questioned by medical professionals and public health advocates, research was undertaken to establish the truth.

Since the toxic effect of traditional cigarettes is primarily in the smoke, the studies focused on the vapor emitted by e-cigs. Much of the funding for the research came from a surprising source – “Big Tobacco” itself. On further examination, this is not as strange as it appears since – operating on the principle, “if you can’t beat them, join them,” the major tobacco companies bought into the e-cigarette market by acquiring a number of leading brands.

e-cigarette vapor is as safe as air

British American Tobacco (BAT) engaged the services of the MatTek Corporation, a company specializing in experimenting in the laboratory with models of human cells. The scientific team designed a “smoking robot” to measure the effect on these cells of tobacco smoke, e-cigarette vapor and regular air. After only six hours of exposure to tobacco smoke, the cells died. On the other hand, after lengthy exposure to vapor and air they found that the effect on the cells was almost identical. In other words, e-cigarette vapor was “as safe as air” as far as human airway tissues were concerned.

Dr Marina Murphy, speaking for BAT, said

By employing a combination of a smoking robot and a lab-based test using respiratory tissue, it was possible to demonstrate… the e-cigarette aerosols used in this study have no [toxic] effect on human airway tissue.

The results of this latest study are significant because earlier studies had suggested that there might be health risks from e-cigarettes.

Michael Siegel professor Boston UniversityWhilst this result might not satisfy the skeptics, who continue to ask if vaping is safe, it was welcomed by professor Michael Seigel, from the health sciences department of Boston University, who said

Despite the limitations of the research, it adds additional evidence to support the contention that vaping is a lot safer than smoking.

He added that public health bodies and anti-tobacco groups should try to persuade smokers to switch to vaping as a safe option – a move which would “transform the nicotine market and achieve a huge public health victory.” Seigal concluded, “Such a phenomenon would result in the greatest public health miracle of our lifetimes.”