Health & Wellbeing

E-cigarettes found to cause as much DNA damage as unfiltered cigarettes

E-cigarettes found to cause as...
A new study has found the vapor from electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, can cause as much DNA damage as smoke from tobacco cigarettes
A new study has found the vapor from electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, can cause as much DNA damage as smoke from tobacco cigarettes
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This chart shows DNA damage from nicotine e-cigarettes (EC) was approximately equivalent to damage caused by smoking unfiltered cigarettes (nf-TC). Damage levels increased with the number of puffs.
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This chart shows DNA damage from nicotine e-cigarettes (EC) was approximately equivalent to damage caused by smoking unfiltered cigarettes (nf-TC). Damage levels increased with the number of puffs.
Karteek Kadimisetty holds the 3-D printed sample chamber of his genetic toxicity testing device.
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Karteek Kadimisetty holds the 3-D printed sample chamber of his genetic toxicity testing device.
A new study has found the vapor from electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, can cause as much DNA damage as smoke from tobacco cigarettes
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A new study has found the vapor from electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, can cause as much DNA damage as smoke from tobacco cigarettes

A new study from the University of Connecticut has found the vapor from electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes – which are often seen and marketed as a safer alternative – can cause as much DNA damage as smoke from tobacco cigarettes. The results surprised the researchers, who concluded that e-cigarettes are "potentially as harmful as tobacco cigarettes."

While a flurry of ongoing research is attempting to determine the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, the "vaping" trend is getting more and more popular – currently, nearly three million adults in Great Britain alone use e-cigarettes. Despite most research still being in the early stages, the majority of studies have suggested that e-cigarettes are safer than tobacco smoking.

In 2016, the Royal College of Physicians concluded that the long-term health hazards of e-cigarettes are "unlikely to exceed 5 percent of the harm from smoking tobacco." But despite e-cigarettes seeming to be a safer alternative to smoking tobacco, we do still see studies warning of the dangers from inhaling e-cig vapors. A study in 2015 found e-cig vapor to contain the same damaging free radicals found in tobacco smoke, albeit in much lower quantities, and a recent study found e-cigarettes could pose a risk to cardiovascular health, though again, probably much less than tobacco smoking.

While the long-term effects of e-cigarettes are still unknown, most research to this day has found the health impacts to be, in varying degrees, lower than tobacco smoking. This new study from a team of chemists stands in stark opposition to most prior reports in that it claims e-cigarette vapor causes the same amount of damage as tobacco smoke, in this case in relation to DNA damage.

This study used a new electro-optical screening device that can quickly detect DNA damage and showed that such damage from nicotine e-cigarettes was approximately equivalent to damage caused by smoking unfiltered cigarettes.

This chart shows DNA damage from nicotine e-cigarettes (EC) was approximately equivalent to damage caused by smoking unfiltered cigarettes (nf-TC). Damage levels increased with the number of puffs.
This chart shows DNA damage from nicotine e-cigarettes (EC) was approximately equivalent to damage caused by smoking unfiltered cigarettes (nf-TC). Damage levels increased with the number of puffs.

"I never expected the DNA damage from e-cigarettes to be equal to tobacco cigarettes," says Karteek Kadimisetty, lead author on the study. "I was shocked the first time I saw the result, so I ran the controls again. I even diluted the samples. But the trend was still there – something in the e-cigarettes was definitely causing damage to the DNA."

The research didn't identify which specific chemicals in the e-cigarette vapor were causing the DNA damage, but the results were clear, damage on a genetic level was being done.

Interestingly, a contrasting study was released late in 2016 claiming e-cigarette vapor had no mutagenic effect on DNA. This earlier study, published in the journal Mutation Research, utilized a very different experiment model. It is also worth noting that this earlier study was funded by British American Tobacco.

Karteek Kadimisetty holds the 3-D printed sample chamber of his genetic toxicity testing device.
Karteek Kadimisetty holds the 3-D printed sample chamber of his genetic toxicity testing device.

The recent study from the University of Connecticut is not without its own other interests either. The team behind the study is using this research to reveal a new DNA screening device utilizing a cheap, disposable 3D-printed "lab on a chip."

While many cigarette smokers have switched to e-cigarettes believing them to be a safer alternative, more research needs to be done before we have a conclusive answer. Of course, the safest approach would be to partake in neither – that's one thing for certain.

The new study was published in the journal ACS Sensors.

Source: University of Connecticut

12 comments
JimFox
Which tobacco company funded THIS "research"????
Martin-tu
More pertinent would be "Which Pharma Company funded this research?'
Tanstar
The biggest advantage of e-cigs over the paper ones? The smell. Cigarette smokers don't even seem to realize how bad those things stink and how the smell lingers on them (especially those that smoke in their cars and homes).
MerlinGuy
Wow, large amounts of nicotine may cause DNA damage. Who would have thought that a chemical who's two main uses - cigarettes and pesticides would be bad for you. I am shocked. Puff away hipsters just get off my insurance plan.
FredSteffen
I can't see the method used without paying. Many studies end up vaporizing the liquid at much too high a temperature, far higher than a person could actually stand. This would cause various toxic byproducts like aldehydes that would be toxic. As the article mentions, another group using industry standard equipment found almost no DNA damage from vaping.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
The study doesn't tell us what percentage of total risk DNA damage represents. Sub micron particulates are the main risk from most smokes. These are absent in E cigarettes. Maybe this is like being afraid of radon when going into a tornado shelter.
Tom Phoghat Sobieski
Don't they grow tobacco in Connecticut?
ljaques
Um, aren't the liquid nicotines derived from the same chemical-laced, GM tobaccos that are used to make cigarettes? And now, what dangers do synthetic nicotines pose? I'm with MerlinGuy in wanting to opt with an insurance plan which doesn't support smokers of any sort. Jim and Martin, note the "surprise" portion of the headline. If funded by tobacco or pharma, would this study have been released at all, or would it have been instantly squashed, hmm?
Tinman_au
" Royal College of Physicians" Hmm...an actual association for doctors, versus a (no doubt) paid for study. Hmm...which should I believe...
Augure
Brought to you by corrupted-paid off "scientists", from tobacco lobbies with love.