E-cigarettes, which are usually marketed as a safe alternative to conventional cigarettes, may cause cancer and heart disease, according to a new study.
Researchers at the New York University School of Medicine in New York City discovered that mice exposed to electronic cigarette or e-cigarette vapor experienced DNA damage in the bladder, lungs, and heart, which could increase the risk of heart disease and cancer.
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Such damage was also found in cultured human lung and bladder cells that had been exposed to e-cigarette vapor for the equivalent of 10 years.
The co-author of the study, Moon-shong Tang, of the Department of Environmental Medicine at the New York University School of Medicine, and his colleagues recently reported their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
E-cigarettes have become popular especially among teenagers and young adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2 million middle and high school students in the United States report having used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.
The battery-powered devices are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a quit-smoking aid, after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded that there is “insufficient evidence to recommend for or against their use for smoking cessation.”
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However, research has discovered that more than 80 percent of cigarette smokers believe that e-cigarettes could help them to quit, while more than 97 percent believe that e-cigs can help to reduce the use of tobacco.
The debate over e-cigarette safety
The CDC believe that healthwise, e-cigarettes are not as harmful as conventional tobacco cigarettes. However, because e-cigarettes are relatively new to the market, exactly how harmful they are remains uncertain.
In a 2017 study, it was discovered that the flavorings in e-cigarette liquid decreased heart muscle function. Now, a more recent report claims that there is substantial evidence that the use of e-cigarette increases heart rate, and that some chemicals in the vapor can damage DNA.
The study by Tang and team provides further evidence of the harms of e-cigarettes, after finding that exposure to e-cigarette vapor can damage DNA in a way that could cause cancer and heart disease.
E-cigarette Vapor Caused DNA Damage
The scientists drew their conclusion by exposing 10 male mice to e-cigarette vapor — containing 10 milligrams of nicotine, which is comparable with what humans inhale for 3 hours per day, 5 days per week, for 12 weeks.
When compared with a control group of mice that inhaled filtered air, they found that the mice exposed to e-cigarette vapor showed DNA damage in their heart, lungs, and bladder.
The scientists also found that exposure to e-cigarette vapor stopped DNA repair processes in the lung tissue of mice. They found the same results when testing long-term exposure to e-cigarette vapor on human lung and bladder cells.
From their conclusion, the research team write:
“Based on these results, we propose that ECS [e-cigarette smoke] is carcinogenic and that e-cig smokers have a higher risk than non-smokers to develop lung and bladder cancer and heart diseases.”
However, faultfinders of the research claim that this study does not prove that e-cigarettes are harmful to health. Peter Hajek, the director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom, spoke to The Guardian, according to him;
“The study shows nothing at all about the dangers of vaping. It doesn’t show that vaping causes cancer. This is one in a long line of false alarms which may be putting people off the switch from smoking to vaping which would undoubtedly be of great benefit to them”.
Based on the controversies, it seems more studies are needed to correctly establish if e-cigarettes or vaping is harmful to health.