If all but five percent of American smokers switched to e-cigarettes, 6.6 million premature deaths would be avoided, according to a new study.
That adds up to 86.7 million cumulative years of life saved, as estimated by the new research from Georgetown University Medical Center. The 15 percent of Americans that currently smoke would regain about three years of life.
The study also included a more ‘pessimistic’ prediction, in which all but 10 percent of smokers switched in the next 10 years, and vaping was not as safe as we currently hope.
Even then, the researchers still found that 1.6 million lives would be saved, for a total of 20.8 million fewer years of human life lost.
If all but five percent of American smokers switched to e-cigarettes, it 6.6 million premature deaths would be prevented, and 86.7 million years of life would be regained
This Washington, DC study comes amid declining cigarette sales, and three years after the US Surgeon General’s recommendation that the US follow the examples of Finland, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Ireland and come up with an ‘endgame’ for cigarette smoking.
Though there has been some concern that e-cigarettes would only be smoked in tandem with regular cigarettes, or serve as a gateway to cigarette smoking, early research suggests that that e-cigarettes contain far fewer toxins than traditional smoking creates.
This is not to say that there are no risks associated with e-cigarettes. Some studies have suggested that they can have negative effects on heart health, others have reported they could increase the risk of stroke. E-cigarettes vary widely in potency and, therefore, in the risks associated with them.
But still other studies have demonstrated that e-cigarettes are less addictive than cigarettes, and that the switch drastically reduces the number of cancerous toxins a smoker is exposed to.
In short, the jury is still out on what exactly the health effects of e-cigarettes will be.
But lead study author David Levy and his team seem certain that even what they call the ‘worst case scenario,’ switching to e-cigarettes will still save lives.
The number of cigarettes sold in the US each year has been declining steadily for a long time now, even as manufacturers raise prices and continue to see profits.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette sales fell 2.5 percent from 2015 to 2016.
The CDC also reports that between 2012 and 2013 (its most recent data), sales of various forms of e-cigarettes sky-rocketed, with increases in sales of assorted e-cigarette products varying from 72 percent to 320 percent.
‘The residual prevalence of cigarette smokers will depend on the potency of policies directed at cigarette use,’ the study says, but acknowledges that the same will be true of e-cigarette use.
As of 2015, about 15 percent of all adults in the US were current smokers, according to the CDC. The CDC reported that in 2014, about 3.7 percent of adult Americans vaped on a regular basis.
The Georgetown University researchers based their numbers on the previous research that said that strict policies, significant tax hikes, and practices like packaging cigarettes with graphic depictions of health problems caused by smoking could reduce the prevalence of smoking in the US to 10 percent in the next 10 years.
Dr Levy says that with the informed encouragement of e-cigarette use, ‘the endgame would be getting cigarette use down to five percent of the US population.’
He and his co-authors note in the study that the tobacco industry has taken a ‘divide and conquer’ approach to products like e-cigarettes, and it’s been working.
‘Right now the tobacco control community is divided, leading to counterproductive disagreements rather than seeking evidence-based strategies,’ Dr Levy told Daily Mail Online.
‘My hope is that this study leads to a more objective approach by realizing that e-cigarettes, even under a worst case scenario, could lead to public health gains, if we can determine how to promote the use of e-cigarettes in a way that reduces smoking without substantially increasing e-cigarette use.’