First toxicology study on vapor proves electronic cigarettes are much better than tobacco

Electronic cigarettes have minimal toxicity compared to tobacco, according to the first study of its kind published in the journal “Inhalation Toxicology” (available here).

The study, called ClearStream-LIFE (clarifying evidence and research on the safety and the risks of electronic atmos), examined the potential toxic effects of electronic and tobacco cigarettes on cultured living cells. Researchers from Abich toxicological laboratory in Italy and Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Greece, led by Dr Giorgio Romagna and Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, used an electronic cigarette device to produce vapor from 21 commercially-available liquids (Flavourart). The resulting vapor extract was applied to fibroblast cells, which are present in several organs of the human body, including the lungs. During the experiment, one cigarette was smoked and the extract was applied to the same cell type for comparison. The study was performed according to a standardized ISO 10993-5 protocol, which defines toxicity as less than 70% cell survival after 24-hours exposure.

This is the first study that has ever evaluated the toxicity of electronic cigarette vapor. After 24 hours exposure to tobacco smoke from one cigarette, only 5.7% of the cells survived. In comparison, 20 of the electronic cigarette samples were virtually non-toxic (more than 70% survival) and only one sample showed mild cytotoxicity (51% survival). According to the study results, the worst-performing liquid had 795% higher cell survival relative to tobacco smoke. “The results are even more impressive when you consider that we compared one tobacco cigarette with electronic cigarette vapor equivalent to 3 cigarettes”, Dr Farsalinos stated.

Previous studies have shown that some toxic chemicals may be present in electronic cigarettes, in quantities much lower than in tobacco. Dr Farsalinos commented: “Knowing the chemical composition is important, however evaluating the effects after exposure is even more crucial. The results of this study show that, if present, the amount of potentially hazardous chemicals released from electronic cigarette use is minimal and certainly not enough to produce any significant adverse effects on the cells we studied.” He added: “In most of the samples tested, cell survival was close to 100%. The quality of electronic cigarette liquids certainly plays a major role in the results. However, until more research is performed and our results are validated by clinical studies we cannot support that they are absolutely safe.”

Electronic cigarettes have been marketed in recent years as an alternative-to-smoking habit, and their use is growing exponentially. This has raised concerns among public health authorities in Europe and the US. Dr Farsalinos stated: “Long term studies cannot be performed until 10-15 years have passed. However, research has significantly progressed over the past few years and currently available data indicate that electronic cigarettes are by far less harmful compared to tobacco cigarettes. This is the definition of harm reduction.”

Dr Farsalinos continued: “Considering the extreme hazards associated with smoking and that the majority of smokers are unable or unwilling to quit with currently approved methods, there is sufficient evidence to support that switching from tobacco to electronic cigarette use may be beneficial for their health. Public health authorities should make decisions based on scientific evidence.”



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