The benefits of vaping to quit smoking outweigh the health risks of youths moving from electronic to traditional cigarettes, according to a new study by the University of Michigan.
An analysis by UM researchers Kenneth Warner and David Mendez from the School of Public Health found that in the most likely of several simulations they ran, nearly 3.3 million life-years could be saved by the year 2070.
"I don't think this paper resolves the argument once and for all. But we have to go with the best evidence available," said Warner. "I believe the case is strong; the benefits outweigh the risks."
However, Warner said the public health community must keep educating young people about the dangers of smoking.
Recent reports show a dramatic decrease in teenage smoking over a number of years, with increased vaping among teens during the same period.
One concern about e-cigarettes is that they contain chemical substances that could be harmful to health, but since e-cigarettes are relatively new, it is hard for researchers to get a firm handle on just how many and how harmful the chemicals are that are inhaled through vaping.
"We are fortunate to know the risks of cigarette smoking, based on decades of epidemiological research." Warner said. "It could take years before we know the full health impact of vaping, if indeed we ever will.
Overall, the report concludes that e-cigarettes, although not without health risks, are less harmful than conventional cigarettes. When used in the place of traditional cigarettes, they can reduce exposure to many toxicants and carcinogens and reduce poor health outcomes.
However, long-term effects of e-cigarettes on health are still unclear.
The report also acknowledged that vaping could be a gateway to conventional smoking for young people.
Though the results of the study show likely benefits from e-cigarettes, "those benefits represent a small fraction of the enormous harm caused by combustible tobacco," Mendez said.