Last week new research comparing smoking versus vaping hit the public. Here’s what two of the studies mean for vapers.
One study compared emissions from smoking and vaping alongside the ways that people use both types of tobacco delivery methods. The idea was to see whether there are differences in toxins in emissions, and whether use patterns affect how users perceive any differences.
The second study examined the size of particles that users inhale during vaping, and the locations of where those particles get deposited in the body during vaping.
Smoking versus vaping actual use study
A team of scientists at British American Tobacco (BAT) began this work based on a theory: the way people use vaping products and tobacco heating products (THPs) can affect how much toxins they inhale. This new study with Italian consumers shows their analysis of how the actual use of vape products and THPs compares with smoking in terms of toxins.
The team found that vapor and THP emissions contained far fewer of the listed toxicants at lower levels than did cigarette smoke. However, the team also investigated the actual way consumers used these products, comparing use patterns for the THP glo, another commercially available THP, the vaping product iSwitch, and a reference traditional cigarette.
The scientists considered puffing topography, which included puffing duration, frequency, and volume, and corresponding mouth level exposure (MLE) to vapor. This is in addition to average daily consumption of the products, a standard reference point in these types of studies.
The team found overall consumption was less for THPs than for cigarettes, with MLE to dry particulate matter significantly lower. This was true even though on average the consumers took puffs of similar duration and volume on both the cigarette and vapor product. The difference could be important for smokers.
“As an example, glo THP emissions contain around 90 percent less of certain toxicants than a cigarette* — a reduction that is amplified by the reduced average daily consumption by consumers,” Joshua Jones, BAT Human Studies Scientist, said in a press release. “This data adds to growing evidence that Italian consumers are exposed to much lower levels of certain toxicants when using THPs and vapor products compared with traditional cigarettes, suggesting these products have the potential to be reduced risk compared with smoking.”
*Comparison of smoke from a scientific standard reference cigarette (approx. 9 mg tar) and vapor from iSwitch, or aerosol from heated tobacco in glo (as applicable), in terms of the 9 harmful components the World Health Organization recommends to reduce in cigarette smoke. This quality does not necessarily mean this product is less harmful than (other) tobacco products.
Vaping particle size study
Researchers have begun to analyze how vaping practices and other factors such as device power and e-liquid composition affect the size of e-cigarettes and where in the body they are deposited. Obviously, this is part of the smoking versus vaping question.
[This study should be considered a preliminary look for a few reasons, such as the small initial sample size, the uncertainty of using the smoking machine, and the fact that the researchers were estimating for some of the findings.]
Typically, e-liquids contain flavoring agents, nicotine, and a base material, such as propylene glycol (PG) or vegetable glycerin. These are safe to eat, but the jury is still out on their longterm impact on the lungs, especially since their effects might be different when inhaled at high temperatures.
The team observed 23 volunteers engage in vaping sessions. They then compared these findings to simulate results from a smoking machine. [This is not a publicly available study, so I could not get any more information about how they did this, but they apparently were using it to produce vapor, not smoke.]
The scientists then collected the vapor. They identified particles in the vapor and measured their size and distribution. They that vegetable glycerin-based e-liquids and higher device power settings produced larger particles. Additionally, slower air flow—or longer puffs where the volume remains the same—generated significantly larger particles.
The team “estimated” where most of the particles were deposited, and again, I cannot see the full study for an explanation of why this was necessary. In any event, they found that there were fewer e-cigarette particles and that those were smaller than those generated by regular smoking, but that all the particles had similar deposition patterns in the human airway.
In other words: neither study found no risk from vaping e-cigarettes, but both imply less risk than smoking.