The Human Element
The challenges of using biomarkers to predict the health impact of e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products.
Charlotte Barker |
At a Glance
- Biomarkers in the context of e-cigarettes and similar smoking alternatives have thus far not been well-studied
- Previous studies have focused on biomarkers with little link to long-term health or do not reflect the ways people actually use e-cigarettes
- Some components of e-cigarette fluids, like formaldehyde, have no useful exposure biomarkers at all
- To identify reliable biomarkers for monitoring ongoing health, the field needs long-term investigation of people who use smoking alternatives
Lion Shahab is a psychologist, neuroscientist and epidemiologist, with a focus on tobacco control: “My interest is in the use of biomarkers as a tool to motivate smoking cessation and investigate the effects of tobacco products and products such as e-cigarettes that are thought to mitigate harms.
“Around 2011, people started approaching our group at University College London about e-cigarettes, which were just taking off at the time,” says Shahab. Based on his previous biomarker work, he secured funding from Cancer Research UK for a study examining biomarkers related to various negative health outcomes in users of e-cigarettes compared with smokers, and those using nicotine replacement therapy, such as gum and patches (1).
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