Claim that vaping is '95% less risky' than smoking cigarettes is misleading, experts say

A common claim, that use of e-cigarettes is "95 percent less risky or harmful" than smoking cigarettes is misleading and invalid, according to an editorial published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Six e-cigarettes experts and public health penned the editorial, saying the oft-cited claim should no longer be used in discussions on the dangers of vaping.

That claim is based on a 2013 analysis by a group of healthcare industry and pharmacology experts who rated the relative harm of 12 nicotine-containing products, the editorial writers said.

The 2013 analysis came to the conclusion that regular, combustible cigarettes were the most harmful, and e-cigarettes were 95 percent less harmful in comparison. But that study did not include hard evidence of the dangers of the products it was evaluating, the editorial said.

Current research on e-cigarettes and the harm they can cause has grown. The editorial's authors point to several new pieces of evidence that point to the dangers of e-cigarettes, including the fact that e-cigarette aerosol could injure the respiratory system, and there are thousands of e-cigarette flavors with chemicals that could cause lung injury.

Lung injury related to e-cigarette use has become an epidemic, with 55 deaths and 2,506 hospitalizations occurring as a result in 2019, according to CDC data.

The FDA is gearing up to ban the sale of nearly all flavored e-cigarette pods.

"You have to understand: We've been studying combustible cigarettes for the last 60 to 70 years. And so we have a huge database with which we can look at how many people die from that behavior," said Thomas Eissenberg, PhD, co-director of the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and one of the editorial's authors.

"We don't have anything near that kind of history with electronic cigarettes. What we do know is that they are delivering toxicants to the human lung and that over repeated use, in some cases, we see health effects from those toxicants that e-cigarette users are inhaling."

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