Researchers from St George’s, University of London, are seeking smokers to participate in a study that examines the long-term safety of ditching cigarettes for e-cigs.
Examining the effects of the switch in terms of risk of cancer, brain activity and quality of life.
The study is aiming for 100 volunteers and is a part of the EU’s Smoke Free Brain project, worth £3.4m.
Public Health England, the health body that revealed e-cigs are around 95% safer than regular cigarettes, are the people spearheading the study and the results could be crucial to whether the NHS uses e-cigs as a smoking cessation method.
However, Public Health England concedes that there are “reasonable concerns” about the long-term effect, and that there’s “variable” research and “poorly sourced scare stories doing the rounds in the media.
During the study, participants will attend a hospital six times a month to give blood, saliva and urine samples for examination, as well as undergo electroencephalography to monitor the brain.
Aiming to help people quit, the study requires smokers who have smoked more than 10 cigarettes for the last 6 months.
“E-cigarettes have proved enormously popular, partly because of the harm reduction compared with smoking traditional cigarettes,” said Dr Alexis Bailey, a senior lecturer in neuropharmacology.
“However, there is still considerable debate in the scientific community over just how much safer they are and how good they are for smoking cessation.”
“It is imperative for us to look at the science behind this and get the full toxicological picture.”
The study will monitor how the toxicity change when the smokers switch to vaping, with the results estimated to take a year.
There are many studies looking at e-cigarette use in terms of smoking cessation and various respiratory disorders and cardiovascular disease.
“What is different from our study is nobody else has measured the effect of transitioning from smoking to e-cigarettes on various toxicity markers which could potentially induce cancer.”
“We are expecting to see these markers quite elevated in chronic smokers, and once they transition to e-cigarettes, these carcinogenic markers to reduce.”
“I think we are doing a very important study. It has the potential to drive policy,” added Dr Bailey.