Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Smokers who switch from traditional cigarettes to pod-based e-cigarettes can limit their exposure to harmful chemicals in tobacco products, a study published Wednesday by JAMA Network Open found.
Among 186 Black and Latinx people who smoked about 12 conventional cigarettes -- more than half a pack -- every day, 28% transitioned completely to e-cigarettes by the end of the six-week study, while 58% continued to use both products, according to the researchers.
Those who made the switch saw an up to 50% reduction in levels of tobacco-specific carcinogens after six weeks, compared with study participants who continued to use regular cigarettes, the researchers said.
"Nicotine salt pod system e-cigarettes are a real alternative for cigarette smokers," study co-author Kim Pulvers told UPI.
"Switching to pod e-cigarettes significantly reduced exposure to toxins which cause disease, [and] smokers who made a complete switch experienced the greatest reduction in exposure, [while those] who made a partial switch also experienced reduced harm," said Pulvers, an associate professor of psychology at California State University San Marcos.
For this study, Pulvers and her colleagues focused on Black and Latinx smokers, populations they say have been "under-represented" in e-cigarette research.
Although cigarette smoking among both groups is the same, or lower, compared to White people, they are at increased risk for adverse effects from tobacco use, including lung cancer, according to the researchers.
Pulvers and her colleagues recruited 186 Black and Latinx smokers, asking 125 of them to switch to e-cigarettes for six weeks, while the other 61 continued to use regular cigarettes and act as controls.
After six weeks, they assessed participants' blood and urine levels for three potentially harmful chemicals found in tobacco products.
Participants who switched completely to e-cigarettes saw up to 50% reductions in exposures to these chemicals, compared to those who continued to use traditional cigarettes.
Those who replaced some traditional cigarette use with e-cigarettes had slightly reduced levels of these chemicals in their systems, the researchers said.
Compared with those who continued to smoke traditional cigarettes, however, e-cigarette users experienced only modest improvements in lung function and blood pressure, they said.
Although the study does not assess the value of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation alternative, Pulvers said the findings suggest that they may serve as "a harm reduction strategy for smokers.".
"Smokers who cannot or will not quit smoking would be well-served by switching to pod e-cigarettes," Pulvers said.
"While our study demonstrates that pod e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes, there is no safe level of tobacco use and e-cigarettes should not be used by youth or non-smokers," she said.