A general switch by tobacco smokers to electronic cigarettes could reduce tobacco-related deaths in the United States by a quarter by the year 2100, according to a study published on Tuesday.
In terms of numbers, this means 6.6 million deaths could be avoided, the study noted.
The debate on the possible harmful effects of electronic cigarettes on health has not yet been settled, even if many experts stress that it is less dangerous than tobacco.
The authors of the study, published in the Tobacco Control magazine, base their projections on two scenarios. In the more optimistic one, they use the hypothesis that risks linked to e-cigarettes are 5% of those linked to tobacco, and that only a minority of people will continue to smoke in the “traditional” manner by 2026.
Under this hypothesis, the study’s authors estimate that 6.6 million deaths can be avoided by 2100 in the United States, representing a quarter of the foreseeable deaths (26.1 million) if the situation remains as it is today: in the United States, 19.3” of men and 14.1% of women smoke.
For the pessimistic scenario, the authors used the hypothesis that the risks linked to e-cigarettes are 40% of those of tobacco. In that case, 1.6 million lives would be spared by the year 2100.
Scientists and specialists fighting against tobacco consumption are divided on the use of e-cigarettes. Detractors fear that the better image of e-cigarettes is attracting a new generation of smokers and that it is an entry port to tobacco. Its proponents feel, on the contrary, that whatever the risks it entails through inhaling liquid vapour containing nicotine, it is infinitely less harmful than tobacco.
E-cigarettes are attracting an more and more people. The number of users in Europe is estimated at seven million. According to the World Health Organization(WHO), tobacco kills more than half its consumers, or seven million people a year, worldwide, including about one million persons exposed to passive smoking.