Last summer we wrote about the perils of e-cigarettes and vaping in our blog (E-Cigarettes: When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes) that are marketed to young people who want to be hipsters, not knowing how dangerous the ingredients in e-cigarettes really are. In fact, there has been an ongoing battle among the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), manufacturers and distributors to disclose and label their products’ ingredients and to stop marketing to vulnerable youth. But young people aren’t the only ones at risk; anyone who wants to stop using tobacco products and opts to use e-cigarettes instead—regardless of age or socio-economic background–is just as vulnerable to dangerous components in the cigarettes. Random tests uncovered toxins and carcinogens that were present in some products during inhalation. Moreover, the side effects noted include nicotine poisoning, nausea and vomiting. High doses of nicotine may also cause tachycardia and high blood pressure.
Just last week, the FDA issued a statement regarding the active steps it would be taking to curb or prevent the use of these harmful e-cigarettes and vaping products by launching a Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan.
Now, preliminary scientific evidence published in PNAS reports that e-cigarette smoke damages DNA and reduces repair activity by limiting the production of proteins involved in the process, in mouse lung, heart, and bladder as well as in human lung and bladder cells.
The authors of the study found that “mice exposed to electronic aerosols have increased levels of DNA lesions and decreased DNA repair activity.” They further suggest that “genotoxics” (chemical substances than can damage the DNA leading to a mutation that can form cancer) that are present may have contributed to the lesions and DNA damage rather than just the nicotine alone. However, Dr. Moon-Shong-Tang, another researcher in the field, disputes that in human cells e-cigarette smoke was the major culprit; instead he believes exposure to pure nicotine and nitrosamine ketones caused DNA adducts (DNA bound to a cancer-causing chemical). He also noted that “a reduction of repair proteins is not necessarily equivalent to a reduction in DNA repair activity.”
Still, other critics caution that the mice in the study were exposed to higher levels of e-cigarette smoke than those who vape regularly might inhale. For example, in urothelial cells the concentrations used were similar to a nicotine level generated by 100 puffs of an e-cigarette.
Overall, the study supports the view that while vaping is not without risk of cancer and other diseases, the risk is usually considerably lower than smoking actual tobacco products. Not surprisingly, the issues related to DNA damage and repair are contingent on the amount of consumption by the user. Other damage to the cardiovascular system is now being noticed due to the introduction of flavoring additives.
The medical scientific community needs to conduct further epidemiological studies to conclusively determine the damage done by both nicotine and the toxins present in e-cigarettes and the vapors they produce and then compare those results to actual tobacco use.
Strategic Communications Professional/Content Strategist/Marketing Communications Consultant