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31 January 2018, 07:32 | Darrell Baldwin
Scientists found that e-cigarette vapour damages DNA and also prevents the genetic code from repairing itsel
Credit Jane Mingay
The study seems to reaffirm the basic premise that e-cigarettes aren't as unsafe as tobacco products, but it isn't the first to suggest they (not to mention the various flavours added to them) have their own set of risks. "Some newer vapers still smoked, but they were still cutting down on cigarettes and some only smoked occasionally", Dr Truman says.
Researchers found evidence that nicotine inhaled from e-cigarettes could be converted into chemicals that damage DNA in the heart, lungs and bladder, and dampen down the body's genetic fix mechanisms.
"We know from talking to teachers that in schools where smoking rates are high in the local community, cigarettes are sold to younger children by teen smokers in order to maintain their own smoking". "The results may take years to come in because cancer is such a slow process", he said. Also, since many e-cigarette users are either former or current smokers, it can be hard to determine whether the cancer risk comes from smoking or vaping.
The lung and bladder cells that were exposed to nicotine turned into tumor tissue more easily.
While some researchers said the work was important, others all but dismissed it as irrelevant to humans. Professor Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London, believes that these results add nothing new to the debate on e-cigs and health.
About one in 20 people in the United Kingdom has adopted a vaping habit as a markedly safer alternative to smoking tobacco.
E-cigarette smoke delivers nicotine through aerosols without burning tobacco. "The best current estimate is that vaping poses, at worst, some 5% of risks of smoking".
Recent studies have shown that e-cigarette smokers have 97% less of a lung carcinogen known as NNAL in their bodies than tobacco smokers. The findings of the study by itself are neither conclusive.
In the meantime, scientists are turning to animal experiments, which may be able to provide further evidence as to the full-blown effects of e-cigarette smoking in about a year.
A comprehensive review of the scientific literature, released earlier this month by the US National Academies of Science, found that vaping is likely less harmful than cigarettes, but may lead to addiction in young people.
The report also said that the potential dangers and benefits of vaping e-cigarettes may depend on the user's age.
"Up to two-thirds of long term smokers will die due to their addiction, but e-cigarettes don't contain tobacco".
While tobacco smoke contains a host of risky chemicals, e-cig liquid consists only of nicotine and relatively harmless solvents.
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