The University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research of BC (CARBC) just released a scientific report, “Clearing the Air“, around e-cigarettes. The report is a literature review and a synthesis of scientific research on e-cigarette.

A systematic review on the harms and benefits of e-cigarettes and vapour devices

Conducted by Renée O’Leary, Marjorie MacDonald, Tim Stockwell and Dan Reist, the study updates scientific knowledge around e-cigarette until April 2016 and browses 15 databases and 1,622 journal articles.

  • Cessation with Vapour Devices: evidence from higher quality studies is encouraging although not enough studies have been carried out in this domain to assert their efficacy for cessation.
  • Youth Use of Vapour Devices: the authors found in the literature two independent analyses in contradiction with the gateway theory. They add that in the US, Canada, and other countries, tobacco use by the 12-19 year olds is declining as vaping does the opposite. Use of non-nicotine e-liquids is reported by up to 72% of this young population.
  • Secondhand Exposure to Vapour: Chemical analyses on e-cigarette emissions conclude in a far less toxicity compared to combustible cigarettes (by several orders of magnitude). However, bystanders may be exposed to significant levels of nicotine when inhaling vapor. A major point of uncertainty concerns emissions of particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and metals for which results are conflicting.

The researchers find “very encouraging” the conclusions of comparative studies between smoking and vaping in a tobacco harm reduction context. The absence of tar, of carbon monoxide and of 77% of the toxins contained in tobacco smoke are established facts in favor of e-cigarettes.

The authors recommend that “best available evidence” is used for regulatory purposes and not “ungrounded fears of a ‘gateway effect’”. To them, policy must ensure that “only the safest devices are legally available” and that smokers are accompanied in their cessation efforts.

O’Leary R., MacDonald M., Stockwell T., & Reist D. (2017). Clearing the Air: A systematic review on the harms and benefits of e-cigarettes and vapour devices. Victoria, BC: Centre for Addictions Research of BC.


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