HealthDay News — Smokers who switch to electronic cigarettes can substantially reduce their intake of toxic chemicals and carcinogens – but only if they completely quit smoking tobacco, according to a study published online February 7 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

For the study, 181 former or current smokers were asked whether they were currently using an e-cigarette or a nicotine-replacement therapy. Urine and saliva samples were taken from all participants, and analyzed for nicotine, as well as several toxins and carcinogens known to be present in tobacco smoke. 

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When smokers switched completely to e-cigarettes, levels of nicotine remained constant. But their intake of cancer-causing chemicals fell to levels found in individuals using nicotine-replacement therapies, the study authors said. E-cigarette or nicotine-replacement users who also kept smoking did not experience substantially reduced levels of carcinogens and toxins, compared with regular smokers.

“Our study shows that bodily level exposure to established and important smoking-related carcinogens and toxicants is reduced by between 56 to 97% in long-term e-cigarette users who have stopped smoking completely, compared with tobacco cigarette smokers,” lead researcher Lion Shahab, PhD, a senior lecturer at University College London, told HealthDay.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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