February 8, 2020
by Canadian Vaping Association
The Royal College of Physicians concluded that vaping was 95% less harmful than tobacco. It is paramount that we, as a society, fully understand what this research means and how it addresses Canada’s leading cause of death – combustible tobacco. 95% less harmful is a percentage expression of vaping’s comparative toxicity relative to combustible tobacco, based on a comprehensive review of a broad range of research and studies.
To fully understand the statement that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking, one must look closer at the study published by the Royal College of Physicians. This study found that toxicological, clinical, and epidemiological evidence all indicates that the chemicals found in nicotine e-liquid vapour are well below the levels of chemicals present in cigarette smoke. “The available data suggests that [the chemicals in vape products] are unlikely to exceed 5% of those associated with combusted tobacco products.” This data played a large role in developing the relative harm statement; if toxicity is reduced by 95%, it is only logical that the relative harm is reduced by the same amount.
Additionally, many studies reviewed had documented improved physiological outcomes among smokers who switched to vaping, including reduced blood pressure, improved lung function, and fewer smoking related disease symptoms. Studies also show that, despite the presence of nicotine, vaping produces less dependence than smoking. The conclusion that e-cigarettes are very low in relative harm is a combined result of the proven reduction in chemical intake, the elimination of the combustion process which is know to generate high levels of toxic and cancer causing compounds, the reduction in dependence, and the various physiological improvements documented in those whom have transitioned from smoking to vaping.
It is important to note that this relative risk statement – 95% less harmful – is not to be misinterpreted as expressing an equivalent reduction in tobacco-related deaths or illnesses. To explain further, if someone were to completely quit smoking cold turkey, that would represent a 100% decrease in toxicity as compared to tobacco, but their risk of tobacco-related illness or premature death doesn’t go down to zero. Factors such as the amount they had smoked and the number of years they had been smoking will all still be relevant be in determining their likelihood of tobacco-related disease or death.
Although combustible tobacco users smoke for the nicotine, it is the tar and various toxic chemicals that causes illness. In particular, tar causes tremendous harm. It is the tar, not the nicotine, that increases a smoker’s likelihood of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and pulmonary diseases. Nicotine itself does not cause cancer and there is little evidence that nicotine causes any of these other harmful effects when isolated. Nicotine has been shown to pose some risk for vulnerable groups (e.g., increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease during pregnancy), however the risk is still substantially lower than that posed by tar and the various other chemicals found in cigarettes.
When taken together, these facts demonstrate why fully understanding the 95% less harmful statistic is so crucial. Research has proven that nicotine itself is relatively safe when isolated for the purpose of smoking cessation. The data also demonstrates that smokers who have transitioned to vaping experience improved lung function, less frequent asthma events, and various other physiological improvements. Without the tar and cancer-causing compounds released by the combustion process, nicotine at the doses combustible tobacco users are exposed to causes minimal harm. Thus, if all smokers transitioned to consumption of nicotine without tar and tobacco combustion, millions of lives could be saved.
About the Canadian Vaping Association
The Canadian Vaping Association (thecva.org) is a registered national, not-for-profit organization, established as the voice for the burgeoning Canadian vaping industry. Founded in 2014, the CVA represents over 300 retail and online vaping businesses in Canada, not including tobacco companies or affiliates. The association is the primary liaison with the federal and provincial governments on all legislative and regulatory issues related to the industry. The primary goal of CVA is to ensure that government regulation is reasonable and practical, through the strategy of professional proactive communication and education supplied bilingually to health officers, media, and elected officials.
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