E-cigarette use may result in a 21 percent drop in smoking-attributable deaths and a 20 percent drop in life-years lost in people born in 1997 or after, compared to what would happen if e-cigarettes were not an option, according to a new research model developed by top tobacco control experts from the United States, Canada, and Australia.
“Our model is consistent with recent evidence that, while e-cigarette use has markedly increased, cigarette smoking among youth and young adults has fallen dramatically,” says the study’s lead author David Levy, Ph.D., a population scientist and professor of oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Levy adds that “recent claims by some scientists that e-cigarettes are likely to act as a gateway to the use of tobacco products are overstated.”
If used instead of smoking, e-cigarettes have the potential to reduce harm and improve public health, Levy says.
“Our study indicates that, considering a broad range of reasonable scenarios, e-cigarettes are likely to reduce cigarette smoking and not lead to offsetting increases in harm from the use of e-cigarettes and more deadly cigarettes,” Levy says.
“When we consider the plausible positive and negative aspects of e-cigarette use, we find that vaping is likely to have a net positive public health impact.”
In fact, the new model projects a reduction of 21 percent in smoking-attributable deaths and 20 percent in life-years lost as a result of use of e-cigarettes in people born in 1997 or after.
Although Levy supports prudent FDA regulation of e-cigarettes, he is concerned that regulating e-cigarettes in the same manner as cigarettes will pose a burden to smaller companies who do not have the resources necessary to gain marketing approval for their products.
“Overregulation of e-cigarettes might actually stifle the development and marketing of safer products that could more effectively displace cigarettes,” he says.
Still, Levy supports the recent decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban use of e-cigarettes to youth younger than 18 “because we still want to discourage use of all nicotine and cigarette products,” he says.
Levy also suggests that, despite their findings of an overall public health benefit from e-cigarettes, use of these products needs to be continuously monitored in young people, since use patterns are likely to change as the product and awareness about the product changes.
The findings are published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.