Vaping has been the ‘in thing’ particularly among the younger smokers. Let’s face it, vape and its related accessories have since become a fashion trend (different device designs, a cocktail of flavours, shirt logos etc) in the vaping community. Vaping has also gained significant popularity as it has been said to give the same ‘kick’ as cigarette smoking without the associated harmful effects, hence being promoted as safe. So is vaping truly safe? Let’s find out.
A vape or e-cigarette is a battery-powered device which delivers nicotine in aerosolised organic solvents through controlled electric heating. As such, vaping does not produce the combustion smoke often associated with a strong unpleasant scent. It is also said to be devoid of the irritant, carcinogenic and allergenic by-products formed from the incomplete combustion of cigarette. For this reason, vaping has been promoted as safe to both the smokers as well as people around them.
A study by Lee and co-workers published in January 2018 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has revealed the contrary. The research group from New York University School of Medicine showed that the metabolism of nicotine in mice exposed to e-cigarette smoke could still form carcinogenic nitrosamines (also present in cigarette smoke). These nitrosamines could damage DNA as well as reduce the DNA repair mechanisms in mouse lung, bladder and heart.
Further experiments in human bladder and lung cell cultures also showed the same damaging effects of these nitrosamines in addition to unveiling their mutagenic and tumour-formation characteristics.
Although no direct comparison was made to cigarette smoking, this new research has unravelled the link between aerosolised nicotine with risk of lung and bladder cancers as well as heart diseases in human. Nevertheless, more studies may be required to further confirm this.
Indeed, previous studies have shown that vapers do have reduced exposure to chemical carcinogens as compared to cigarette smokers. Nevertheless, it is still worthwhile to be made aware of the fact that vaping is still associated with potential risks of cancers and health diseases as confirmed by Lee et al, 2018.
So there you have your answer, folks. Vaping is a safer alternative to conventional cigarette smoking but it is not completely safe either. More studies on the long term impacts of vaping on human health are required before we can be sure. Hope that clears the air!
- Lee et al. (2018) E-cigarette smoke damages DNA and reduces repair activity in mouse lung, heart, and bladder as well as in human lung and bladder cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1718185115
- Shahab et al. (2017) Nicotine, carcinogen, and toxin exposure in long-term e-cigarette and nicotine replacement therapy users: A cross-sectional study. Ann Intern Med 166:390–400.