NASEM report offers ‘conclusive evidence’ that vaping is safer than smoking

The National Academy of Sciences Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) has recently published a report offering conclusive evidence that vaping produces no known adverse health effects long-term and is significantly safer than smoking.  The U.S. findings closely mirror those of a 2015 publication by Public Health England indicating that vaping is as much as 95 percent less harmful than smoking.

Anti-tobacco activists will likely take issue with NASEM’s findings because its co-authors fall short of claiming definitely that vaping has zero long-term consequences.  No reputable scientist would ever make such a claim, regardless of the subject matter, simply because the technology surrounding electronic cigarettes is always advancing at a rapid pace.  But the scientists do make some very bold claims in favor of vaping as a safe and effective tobacco harm reduction tool and smoking alternative.  

Overview of the NASEM report

Led by Dr. Nancy Rigotti of Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, the researchers began by compiling and analyzing over 800 vaping studies conducted by the world’s most highly regarded researchers.  After countless hours combing through the volumes of research, the Rigotti team determined that while vaping is not completely harmless, it is significantly safer than smoking and can greatly improve a smoker’s chances of quitting.   Other noteworthy findings of the NASEM report entitled Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes include the following:

"There is substantial evidence that except for nicotine, under typical conditions of use, exposure to potentially toxic substances from e-cigarettes is significantly lower compared with combustible tobacco cigarettes."
"There is conclusive evidence that completely substituting e-cigarettes for combustible tobacco cigarettes reduces users’ exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens present in combustible tobacco cigarettes."
"While the overall evidence from observational trials is mixed, there is moderate evidence from observational studies that more frequent use of e-cigarettes is associated with increased likelihood of cessation."

The report also goes on to state the existence of “moderate evidence” that second-hand vapor is far less toxic than second-hand smoke.  “No available evidence” exists linking vaping to cardiovascular outcomes including heart disease, stroke, or artery disorders.  And there is “insufficient evidence” to support the claims that e-cigs cause long-term changes to blood pressure or heart rate.   The report even concludes that there is “no available evidence” linking vaping to cancer. 

Michael Seigel, the NASEM report, and the FDA deeming regulations

The NASEM report began making its way into mainstream media almost immediately after publication.  Within 48-hours of report’s release on January 23, the U.S. News & World Report published an Op Ed by Dr. Michael Siegel of the Boston University of Public Health.  As a longtime pro-vaping advocate, Siegel uses this opportunity to take specific aim at FDA deeming regulations that threaten to wipe out vaping by 2022.

“The report states that there is no evidence to support the conclusion that vaping increases the risk of heart disease, lung disease or cancer, despite the many anti-tobacco groups and state health departments (and even researchers) which have made such claims. The report concludes that there is no evidence that vaping is associated with heart disease, lung disease or cancer. Groups that have been telling the public about all sorts of risks associated with vaping, such as "popcorn lung" and increased risk of cancer, have been making unsupported claims.”
“The bottom line is that it is possible to make e-cigarettes that pose little health risk, but because the FDA has dragged its feet and chosen to take a prohibitionist approach rather than to do its actual job, there continue to be products on the market that are exposing users to unnecessary potential risks, including battery explosions and unwanted chemicals produced by overheating of the e-liquid.”

Seigel also urges anti-tobacco activists to read the NASEM report, officially endorse vaping as significantly less harmful than smoking, and perhaps throw their political weight behind a possible repeal of the “FDA’s de facto ban” on vaping.   He specifically mentions the Pre-Market Tobacco Applications (PMTA) process that is both “expensive and burdensome.”


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